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Superior owner taking ride of his life for breast cancer research

by Christina DiMartino | April 18, 2010
Mike and Cyndy Mulhern, owners of Superior Produce Inc., a wholesaler in Sacramento, CA, are on a mission they've tagged "Coast2Coast4ACure" to raise money for breast cancer.

Mr. Mulhern will set off May 17 on his bike for a 3,750-mile cross-country ride from Boston to San Francisco. Mrs. Mulhern, accompanied by her mother, Mr. Mulhern's father and other family members, will be driving alongside in a motor home.

The family has good reason for its dedication to raising money for breast cancer.

"In fact, there are several reasons," said Mr. Mulhern. "My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago, and she eventually died from ovarian cancer. My sister had a double mastectomy in 1999. Both my aunt and my wife's aunt were also diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

"The most important reason for this ride, however, isn't because of a diagnosis," he continued. "It is because of two major scares involving Cyndy. Two lumps with atypical cells were discovered on Cyndy at different times in the past two years. Two biopsies were taken, and our family went through two excruciating periods of waiting. Two times filled with the anxiety of not knowing what was next and wondering what might have caused those lumps in my wife's breast. These tense periods provided me with time to reflect on what is truly important in life."

It turned out that neither lump was cancerous. In retrospect, however, Mr. Mulhern said that those incidents may have been the tipping point that motivated him to embark on his fundraising journey.

Mrs. Mulhern's role in raising money for breast cancer extends far beyond just manning the motor home wheel. She will walk in the Avon Walk Boston the day before Mr. Mulhern sets off on his bike ride in May, and is committed to raising $1,800 for the event. During the cross-country ride, she plans to connect with breast cancer survivors in numerous cities to talk about how they dealt with the disease and to feature their stories on their web site,

The site and a Facebook page, coast2coast4acure, were developed to track and report on Mr. Mulhern's day-to-day progress with photos and key events of the trip as they occur, and to offer updates of the funds raised to date. "We are trying to coordinate additional fundraising events in select cities as we continue our trek across America," said Mr. Mulhern. "Our plan is to get produce companies across the country involved."

The couple has sent out postcards and e-mails to people they deal with in the produce industry, hoping for a domino effect that will inspire professionals to make a donation.

Mr. Mulhern is taking the physical challenge of his ride seriously. He has been working with a professional cycling coach, a sports dietician and a personal trainer since October. He noted that he will turn 58 years old in May, during the ride, and has been riding 100 miles a day two to three times a week to train.

"My goal is to complete the ride in six weeks," he said. "That's a little aggressive, especially given my age. While I'm not committing to an exact finish date, I figure the entire trip will take about six weeks. My goal is to arrive at my final destination before July 4. Our family has an annual tradition of gathering together at Yosemite National Park on July 4. If I don't finish my ride by then, I'll take a break and go to Yosemite, and then get back on the bike."

Mr. Mulhern thinks that on flat ground, he'll be able to ride approximately 100 miles a day. In mountainous terrain, he expects that figure to drop to about 50 miles a day.

"I'm banking my miles on the easier days," he said. "I may make only 40 miles a day when I'm riding through the Sierra Mountains."

He is also aware of the mental challenges associated with such an aggressive bike ride.

"I've read three books about people who have done this ride," he said. "They were very specific about the mental challenges. Fortunately, Cyndy will be with me, and that will be helpful in keeping my spirits high. The greatest challenge I may face is a little back pain, but so far I've been able to ride for seven to eight hours a day without a problem. I'll stop every hour or so to walk around, eat and refuel my energy."

The owner of the produce company next door to the Mulhern's business is a close family friend. He and the staff at Superior Produce will oversee its day- to-day business in the couple's absence. The company is a wholesaler that sells primarily to government agencies, such as the state of California school districts and Sacramento County foodservice agencies.

Proceeds from Mr. Mulhern's bike ride will go to the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade, a foundation that has raised more than $690 million in 50 countries for awareness and education, screening and diagnosis, access to treatment, support services and scientific research.

"My ride is 100 percent self-supported," he added. "Every cent we raise will go directly to Avon."

As of April 13, the Mulherns had raised $5,500. They are asking the produce industry for its support and for companies to pass the message along to as many others as possible.

"There has been even more support from the produce industry than we anticipated," said Mr. Mulhern. "I don't have a dollar goal, but I'm thinking we could raise around $50,000. We'll be thankful for every dollar to help fight this devastating disease."