Gaines Lions welcome Bay County bicyclist after 74-mile ride to raise money for childhood cancer research



Lions District 11 D-1 Governor Harold DeMott, past president of the Gaines Lions Club, presents bicyclist Debra VanTol with a bouquet of flowers upon her arrival in Gaines on Friday. Photo by Lania Rocha

Lions District 11 D-1 Governor Harold DeMott, past president of the Gaines Lions Club, presents bicyclist Debra VanTol with a bouquet of flowers upon her arrival in Gaines on Friday. Photo by Lania Rocha

GAINES — Debra VanTol had two goals in September: to pedal 300 miles as part of the Great Cycle Challenge, and to raise $300 for the Childhood Cancer Research Fund.

VanTol, a member of the Auburn-Williams Lions Club, completed the final 74.5 miles of her journey when she rolled up to the Gaines Lions clubhouse Friday, Sept. 25.

As for the second goal, VanTol raised more than $611, more than double her target total.

“It’s such a worthwhile cause,” VanTol said. “Children who go through cancer, they have such determination and grit and will … I can’t even imagine.”

Gaines Lions club members greeted VanTol upon her arrival in the village, presented her with a bouquet of flowers, and treated her to lunch and fellowship.

The route from Auburn to Gaines covered about 75 miles and took the 65-year-old bicyclist along part of the Bayzil Trail, into Bay City, under the Zilwaukee Bridge, through Carrollton and Saginaw and down M-13.

VanTol is part of the 10-member Lions of Michigan Cycle Team. Together they have bicycled more than 1,143 miles and raised more than $6,076 to fight childhood cancer this year, according to information posted on their website.

The Great Cycle Challenge is a nationwide fundraising event. Since the challenge was started in 2015, riders from all 50 states have logged 18,831,310 miles and raised $24,615,507 in support of research into better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for childhood cancers.

“Childhood cancer is just one of five Lions Club International global causes,” said Gaines Lions Secretary Mary DeMott.

A worldwide organization, Lions Club International members help children with visual impairments, and help prevent avoidable blindness and improve the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired, DeMott said.

“We help feed the hungry, and help reduce the prevalence of diabetes and improve the quality of life for those diagnosed (with diabetes),” she said.

The international club’s disaster relief and replanting efforts help protect and restore the environment for everyone’s future.

“These are just a few of the things we do,” DeMott said.