When Glenn Hirsch was in third grade, he learned lessons about exercising and giving back that would help shape his life years later when he cycled to raise awareness about I Care I Cure after losing his nephew Ian to leukemia at age 11 in 2006.
Hirsch, 67, was introduced to cycling when he was a teenager. Although he took a break to finish medical school, he started again while completing his residency in central Pennsylvania. When he turned 50, Hirsch took leave from his family medical practice for a cycling tour from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to benefit the American Lung Association. He has continued to support organizations such as the Arthritis Foundation.
Hirsch’s rides have included Key West, Fla., to the Canadian border, which he crossed on his 40th wedding anniversary; Seattle to San Francisco; New Orleans to St. Augustine, Fla.; and Phoenix to New Orleans, nearly completing a full lap around the United States.
Hirsch’s intention was to ask people to donate to the charities of their choice during his cycling trips, but after Ian’s death, he decided to raise money for cancer research and morphed his sister-in-law’s foundation from I Care I Cure into I Care I Cure I Cycle.
“It’s something I really didn’t think a lot of people were doing and thought I could help,” Hirsch said.
Two months after completing a cross-country cycling tour, however, Hirsch had a heart attack in 2000. His wife, Lynn, didn’t think he would ride again.
Hirsch had open heart surgery six months after the heart attack.
During his recovery, doctors asked Hirsch to maintain a minimum lifting weight that was less than 20 pounds, close to the weight of his bike, and he implemented lifestyle changes, such as less work.
“I knew before I had the heart attack that I needed to slow down and change my work pace, which has made things a lot less stressful,” Hirsch said. “I have been able to do everything that I have wanted since and have always found cycling as a relaxing activity.”
Since his sabbatical, Hirsch has raised awareness about gentler treatment options for childhood cancer. Ian’s parents, Beth and Brad
Besner, have raised nearly $2 million to support research into less toxic therapies for children with leukemia and other forms of cancer, Hirsch said.
Hirsch continues to divide his time between cycling and giving to charity. “I do some of my best thinking while riding my bike and was going to give back to a foundation anyway. So getting the chance to ride and having someone benefit from it helps.”
Whenever the cycling gets tough, Hirsch thinks about his nephew. “He had a much rougher go at it than I did … which helps me get through the rides when I put it in that perspective.”
Hirsch will participate in one last ride for I Care I Cure I Cycle in December. A ride from Phoenix to Santa Monica, Calif., will complete his journey around the country’s perimeter, covering more than 10,000 miles in 17 years.
He is scheduled to leave Phoenix for San Diego on Dec. 20, then will head north up the California coast, reaching the Santa Monica Pier on Dec. 29.
“Both Glenn and I had a helpless feeling after Ian passed away, and there wasn’t anything we could say or do to help console my sister, but we thought that by helping the foundation, we were doing our part to help them accomplish their goal and get through the ordeal,” Lynn said. “It’s been a long journey. … I don’t think Glenn ever imagined he would ride around the perimeter of the country, but he is the kind of person that, once he sets a goal for himself, he does not back down.”