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Passion, energy emanate from Obliteride rest stop in Gig Harbor

Gig Harbor resident Ellen Betit, fifth from left in the top row, served as team captain at the Gig Harbor Cares rest stop Saturday for Obliteride riders at Skansie Park when they stopped for some food, water and a bathroom break.
Gig Harbor resident Ellen Betit, fifth from left in the top row, served as team captain at the Gig Harbor Cares rest stop Saturday for Obliteride riders at Skansie Park when they stopped for some food, water and a bathroom break. Courtesy

Gig Harbor resident Ellen Betit knows quite a bit about cancer.

Her son was diagnosed with cancer when he was 10 years old, and her grandson, Jackson, was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 2.

“It is always a parent’s nightmare, and as a grandparent, even more so. You have such pain for the child but then with a grandchild, your child is suffering, too, and you know the road ahead,” Betit said.

Because of research that Betit credits with saving both her son and grandson’s lives, she was full steam ahead volunteering with the Fred Hutch Obliteride event held over the weekend to raise money for research at Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center.

Both her son and grandson had a 90-percent cure rate and, thanks to early diagnosis, both are now in remission.

This year marked the fourth year for Obliteride and the third year the event has had a rest stop in Gig Harbor. Betit is the team captain, and she and her volunteers at the Gig Harbor Cares rest stop cheered and greeted the riders at Skansie Park on Saturday when they stopped for some food, water and a bathroom break.

“This is the least I can do,” she said.

Betit has lived in Gig Harbor for the last six years. Her enthusiasm is evident as she described how she got started supporting the Obliteride event.

I didn’t know a lot of people but thought I could figure it out. It is so much fun the day of the ride.

Gig Harbor resident Ellen Betit

“I didn’t know a lot of people but thought I could figure it out. It is so much fun the day of the ride,” she said.

Betit’s grandson went through three years of treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital and it became a part of his life. During the time Jackson and other children were receiving treatment at Seattle Children’s, iron workers were building a new hospital wing. As they worked, they had a bird’s-eye-view of the kids through the windows. The workers came up with the idea to paint a child’s name on each beam. Each child wore a special T-shirt sporting the logo “I’m on the beam.”

“Children’s Hospital was amazing,” said Betit.

The Obliteride event has raised nearly $8 million for cancer research since its inception, and volunteers help make it a success, said Amy Anderson, a member of the ride’s public relations team.

One hundred percent of the funds raised goes to research. And race officials couldn’t make that happen without volunteers.

“Volunteers are the backbone of Obliteride,” said Amy Lavin, Obliteride’s executive director. “The phenomenal support they provide to our riders is one of the things that sets Obliteride apart. Year after year, our riders tell us how fantastic our volunteers are. Their energy, enthusiasm and passion for the cause are amazing. They are first class.”

Approximately 1,400 total riders registered for all of the routes, and 300 rode the route through Gig Harbor. Betit and her crew were ready for them when they rolled up to Skansie Park on Saturday.

“It was a wonderful day,” she said. “We had close to 300 riders and just so much energy. It was crazy how much spirit they brought with them.”

Betit said that the riders and supporters shared their personal stores, successes and sadness relating to cancer, and why they became involved.

“For me it was invigorating to see so many people come together for a common cause,” Betit said. “I get more out of this than I give.”

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