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Cycling back to the community

Denny and Joan Riedel

​​​​​Denny and Joan Riedel figure it's just how they were raised. They were both brought up by parents who emphasized the importance of giving back to their community.

Marshfield Clinic has certainly benefitted from their generous investments of time and energy. They organize two major fundraisers for the Clinic: The Breast Cancer Awareness Ride and Run (BCARR) and the Hub City Days Duathlon.

The Riedels are co-owners of The Sports Den, a bicycle and sporting goods store on Marshfield's south side. They have a natural business connection to events like BCARR, but that's far from their main motivation. Breast cancer has afflicted multiple generations in Denny and Joan's families.

"My grandmother had breast cancer back in the 1950s," Joan said. "The treatments then were not monitored and what she went through was just horrible." Both of their mothers and an aunt, as well as dear friends and co-workers, are breast cancer survivors and warriors.

"We do this event to honor the women in our lives who have been afflicted with breast cancer and the men, women and children who battled through it with them," Joan said. Research is very important to the Riedels and they stage these events in hopes that their generation can say they fought AND found a cure for breast cancer.

Trek Bicycle Corporation started the national autumn ride and The Sports Den, as a Trek dealer, jumped on board. In 2007 they started BCARR in conjunction with the fall ride and added a fundraising component. All proceeds from the biking portion of the event support breast cancer research.

"We organized the first breast cancer awareness ride in just two weeks, and we tied for number-one in the country in terms of participation and revenues raised," Denny said. The next year they met with the Clinic's Development Department, who suggested they attend a program on volunteer fundraising. It showed them how to enhance the returns from their event by holding raffles and encouraging other businesses and individuals to make additional cash or in-kind contributions. They also encouraged cancer specialists and survivors to give heart-warming presentations and set up a post-event meal.

"We decided we needed to partner with Development and this has become a very good relationship," Denny said. The Riedels chose to devote the event's proceeds to the Clinic's mobile mammography units, which make mammography available to people in rural areas throughout Wisconsin. Many of these people do not otherwise have convenient access to this important cancer screening procedure.

"I was an X-ray technologist and used to perform mammograms, so it made sense," said Joan, who is now an ultrasonographer at Marshfield Clinic, while Denny runs the bike store.

About four years ago, Chief Development Officer Teri Wilczek had another idea.

"She said she was not a bicyclist but a runner, and wondered if we could add a run and walk to the event?" Denny recalled. They agreed, and that's how the event became the Breast Cancer Awareness Ride and Run or BCARR for short. This year with the support of 430 participants, the event raised $23,000. But that's still not all for the Riedels' involvement in philanthropy.

Denny participated in a couple of triathlons and enjoyed them, except for one thing.

"I'm horrible at swimming," he noted. He later participated in a Duathlon in Stevens Point, involving a run, bike ride and run, with no swimming.

"It made sense to me that we could host something like this in Marshfield, since we don't have a nearby body of water for swimming," he said. They decided to organize a duathlon in Marshfield.

That event, now known as the Hub City Days Duathlon, completed its fourth year in July and has raised almost $140,000 to support Youth Net. This is an afterschool program of Marshfield Clinic's  Center for Community Outreach, serving referred 8-18 year olds living in the Marshfield area.

"We've had some personal involvement with that program and we feel it's very beneficial for at-risk kids," Joan said. But staging the event is just part of it. The Riedels turned to the other major bike company they represent, Specialized, which this year donated six new bikes and helmets for the Youth Net children to use.

"Specialized Bicycle Company saw the bicycle donation as doing something good for the community," Denny said.

The BCARR and Duathlon both require long hours on Denny's part, but are still not his only commitment to the community. He helps out with the annual Cranberry Ride, a series of longer rides for more serious bike enthusiasts that supports the Ronald McDonald House in Marshfield. He assists at several area bike rodeos, teaching bicycle safety and maintenance. He supports the "Bike for Honor Flight" fundraiser and the Highground Bicycle Tour and is on the board of directors for the Marshfield Area Ski Touring Foundation.  He tries to help others as he can.

"You want to do right for everybody but sometimes you just can't and you have to hope that someone else will pick it up," he said. He's glad to have the help of their three daughters, Angela Montalvo, who co-chairs the Duathlon; Breanna VanDeHey, who works at the store; and Chelsie Rennicke, a teacher who travels from southeast Wisconsin to help out. His mother, Dorothy, also provides something extra that regular BCARR participants look forward to: her homemade molasses cookies.

"Denny and Joan are two of the most energetic people I know. Their passion for making a difference is truly admirable; we are so fortunate to partner with them on several wonderful events," Wilczek said.

"This community is amazing for the support we get, from companies like Thrivent Financial, who have been wonderful," Denny said. "I'd like to name everybody who's helped us but I just can't. I wouldn't want to leave anyone out."