In 2004, Harrison Strickler, age six, was diagnosed with high risk T-cell leukemia. He underwent 21 red blood and 9 platelet transfusions, 10 lumbar punctures, 28 months of chemotherapy and cranial radiation. Throughout his treatment, he sustained himself by keeping his mind on his favorite sport — bike riding. Harrison was an early adapter to the two-wheeler at age 4, and even dressed up as a pro cyclist for Halloween. When he was too weak to physically ride his bike, his Mom, Leslie, would crawl in bed with him and paint mental pictures of the Tour de France, conquering the mountains of the Pyrenees and always ending with a victory on the Champs-Élysées including kisses from the French girls clad in yellow.
After completing treatment, Harrison wanted to help other kids with cancer. In 2007, the nine-year-old partnered with the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research to create an annual fundraising bike ride. Over the past five years, the 10-mile family biking excursion, entitled the Tour de Harrison, has raised more than $100,000 for pediatric cancer research.
“Harrison has taught me so much about life and what is important,” writes Harrison’s father, Al. “He is helping those that come after him achieve better outcomes with fewer side effects.”
Held in Harrison’s hometown, Richmond, Virginia, the family-friendly early summer ride concludes with games, a DJ and a community meal, often sponsored by a local eatery.
Proceeds fund the T-cell leukemia research of Adolfo A. Ferrando, MD, PhD, at Columbia University whose lab has made significant strides in identifying genetic lesions that cause T-cell leukemia, which will translate to novel diagnostic tests and therapies for the treatment of this disease. Dr. Ferrando, a rider, said, “The Tour de Harrison is one of the most inspiring events I ever had the opportunity to participate in. Everybody who took part demonstrated the tight bonds of their community.”
“The Tour de Harrison is all about helping kids with cancer to hope for a cure,” says Harrison, now 15 years old. “It’s also a lot of fun!”