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AJ Forms Denver Community Ride to Accelerate Breakthroughs

Published on February 21, 2023 in Event Participant, Stories, In the Community

A group of cyclists gather outside during the 2022 Denver National Brain Tumor Ride.

As a young professional, AJ Colaizzi turned to cycling to get more active while also enjoying the outdoors. He signed up for a bike ride in Colorado that covers 110 miles in 10,000 feet of elevation. As he began to train, AJ realized that “maybe I should try to fundraise for a cause and put some meaning behind the miles.” Cycling could become a way for AJ to honor loved ones who had passed away from glioblastoma. 

Years prior, as a high school student about to graduate, he received the devastating news that a close family friend, Pete, had been diagnosed with glioblastoma. Pete lived around the corner in AJ’s neighborhood with a son close in age to AJ, who he had befriended. Over the years, Pete became like a second father to AJ and even coached teams AJ and Pete’s son played on. Pete passed away a couple of years after receiving his diagnosis, creating a void in AJ’s life.

“After Pete’s diagnosis, a teammate of mine in college lost his father to glioblastoma,” AJ said. “I met my wife a couple of years ago and learned she also lost her father to glioblastoma.”

Four cyclists gather at an elevation marker during their Colorado ride.
AJ, left, stopped at an elevation marker during his ride

AJ’s wife, Kasey, was already connected with the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) through her family’s involvement with the Colorado Brain Tumor Walk & Run. She introduced AJ to NBTS, and he ultimately participated in the cycling event as a Gray Nation Endurance®️ athlete.

“I rally behind the cause to ride for our family and friends who have lost their loved ones,” AJ shared. “You have moments in training or on the ride when you don’t want to keep moving forward and feel done. When I push through that, it’s a way to remember them and honor what they had to go through.”

AJ Establishes Denver Regional Ride

For 27 years, the Boston Brain Tumor Ride brought the brain tumor community together in Massachusetts, with cyclists riding up to 62 miles to fundraise for NBTS. 

The ongoing pandemic spurred the New England-based ride to expand in 2021, creating an opportunity for supporters around the country to ride a course of their choosing as part of the rebranded National Brain Tumor Ride.

A woman and man give a thumbs up while wearing bike helmets and sunglasses during the Denver National Brain Tumor Ride.
AJ and his wife, Kasey

With the event’s shift, AJ invited a small group of friends and families in the Denver area to join him for a 10-20 mile ride on the day of the 2021 event. 

“That small ride was the bigger push for us to start something formally in person and where we are ultimately trying to head with the Denver National Brain Tumor Ride,” AJ said. 

With the encouragement of NBTS, AJ formed the Denver National Brain Tumor Ride — a regional offshoot of the in-person ride in Massachusetts.

Nearly 30 riders biked around Denver as part of the 2022 ride, including 10 cyclists who completed a big climb with 66 miles in total and 4,000 feet in elevation. 

Today, AJ works collaboratively with NBTS as a volunteer to improve the Denver ride and increase its reach to the greater Denver cycling community.

“Bringing people together, seeing people smiling and thinking about the loved ones they lost is what really keeps me going,” AJ said. 

Register for National Brain Tumor Ride

Join AJ and hundreds of cyclists across the country on Sunday, May 21, 2023, for the 2023 National Brain Tumor Ride. Whether riders take to the streets in New England, join a community ride, or participate virtually, they can engage with the brain tumor community and make a difference in funding best-in-class research and improving the lives of patients and care partners.

“I would encourage people who enjoy cycling and fitness to look for rides like the National Brain Tumor Ride instead of the big races that are ultimately a money grab,” said AJ. “At the end of the day, you’re pushing yourself physically while supporting a fulfilling cause.”

Are you inspired to start a ride in your own community as part of the National Brain Tumor Ride? Our team can help you with routes, share best practices, offer tips on who to partner with, and much more. Contact NBTS today to learn more. 

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