Cyclists honor fallen friend

BEAVER SPRINGS – In 2007, Shawn Basom sent an email to friend and writer/photographer Zach Knepp asking him to help with an upcoming fundraiser. Basom was planning a bike ride to benefit the American Cancer Society and wanted help promoting the event.

“I went out and took some photos of him riding his bike on a country road,” Knepp said. “The following few days I wrote some press releases and articles for various publications to help promote his endeavor.”

Family and friends already knew about Basom’s personal story, but soon the public also came to appreciate and admire what the Beaver Springs resident was trying to accomplish on his bike.

Basom was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease shortly after graduating from West Snyder High School in 1998. During the next nine years, he would endure more than 20 radiation treatments, three chemotherapy treatments and two stem cell transplants.

During his time in the hospital after the second stem cell transplant, Basom read a book written by a cancer survivor who enjoyed cycling. The author was told she was never going to be able to ride bike again by her doctors.

Despite her initial prognosis, she not only was able to ride again but could eventually do 100 miles in a single day. That story is what inspired Basom to do his first cycling fundraiser.

“People with cancer wake up every day dealing with their illness and stress,” Basom said before his 100-mile trek. “During the ride I put myself to the test to help others with more difficult challenges to overcome.”

Basom completed the 100 miles on his bike. For his efforts, he was able to raise $3,951 which he donated to the American Cancer Society. The following year Basom was selected as the honorary chair for the Relay for Life event in Beaver Springs.

Three years after this first ride, Basom asked Knepp for his help with another fundraiser. This time his goal was to participate in the Livestrong Challenge held in Philadelphia.

“We sat down in his living room and talked about how to promote his ride,” Knepp said. “I suggested creating a page on Facebook and thought that Cycling for Cancer was a great name since Shawn wanted to continue raising funds and awareness on his bike. During that meeting, we decided that we wanted to do a ride every few years and try to grow Cycling for Cancer.”

Despite battling graft versus host disease (a side effect of a stem cell transplant), Basom got back on his bike in his weakened condition to train for his second fundraiser.

Along with raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the then 29-year-old had another reason for participating in the event.

“I just want people to be educated about the importance of getting checked by a physician on a regular basis and let people know there are currently 28 million cancer survivors in the world,” he said, just days before departing for Philadelphia.

On the day of the event, Basom rode more than 30 miles and raised $770, despite being in very poor physical condition.

Also riding in the Livestrong Challenge that day was Bryan Hoy, a lifelong friend of both Basom and Knepp.

“He was determined to do as many miles as he could,” Hoy said. “Just to do one or two in his state would have been fantastic. After the race we had some lunch and just hung out. That is something I will never forget.”

That would be Basom’s last ride for charity. He passed away in May 2013 after battling the disease for 15 years and inspiring others to continue their fight against cancer.

During one of their last conversations, Basom asked Knepp if he would continue Cycling for Cancer in the future.

“I was honored for him to ask me to carry on what he had started,” Knepp said. “I had helped out with his rides, but with my laptop, camera and media connections. The training he went through on his bike for those rides was amazing. Anyone who was not inspired by Shawn likely never heard his story or saw what he went through during the last third of his life.”

“What he went through was something I would not wish on my worst enemy, yet he faced forward and stayed positive regardless of the situation. His outlook on life was amazing, just like he had done on his bike during his two rides.”

When Knepp weighed his options to hold the first event without Basom, he decided to have a friend or family member ride in his honor before eventually opening it up to groups of riders.

“With Bryan being a friend of ours and having ridden with him during the last event, I thought it made perfect sense to see if he would be interested in doing this year’s ride,” Knepp explained.

Hoy quickly accepted the invitation and selected July 26 as the date. The Hendersonville, N.C. resident will mirror Basom’s first fundraiser as he will ride 100 miles through Snyder County.

“I was honored when Zach asked me to do take part in the fundraiser that Shawn started,” Hoy said. “I’d like to be part of his legacy and carry on this fundraiser for years to come. He wanted to give people hope and inspire as many people around him as he could.”

Upon completion of Hoy’s ride, all money collected will be donated to the American Cancer Society in Basom’s honor.

“He took pride in being able to help others through his fundraisers,” Knepp said. “But just as the donations he accepted were important, his message about never giving up and enjoying each day you have was even more important, in my opinion.”

Donations can be sent to Cycling for Cancer at 407 Wagenseller Street, Middleburg, PA 17842 with the checks made out to the American Cancer Society.

“I know it seems that a group is always asking for donations and not everyone can contribute,” Knepp said. “I am simply asking everyone that was inspired by Shawn to send in $1. If everyone did that, we would be able to present the American Cancer Society with a nice gift in his honor.”

For more information, email or visit the Shawn Basom’s Cycling for Cancer page on Facebook.