A group of women motorcyclists is taking to the streets of Kanawha County on Sunday in a Think Pink Ride to raise money for breast cancer treatment and awareness in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The group, Valkyries Ladies Club, was formed this year by Shari “Ultra” Workman. All of the proceeds collected from the ride will go to Charleston Area Medical Center’s Cancer Center.
“We’re new, and not the first club but the only — or one of the only — ones in West Virginia right now. We want to support women, kids and veterans, and October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it seemed like a perfect time for us to kick things off,” Workman said.
Workman had never organized a ride before, and said it was “a whirlwind” to get this one going, but she is grateful it happened.
“I didn’t know how much time it took or the logistics, so we started by just calling CAMC and asking how to even give a donation like this,” Workman said.
Workman doesn’t have experience with breast cancer herself, but several years ago she watched her sister battle a different cancer. Her sister died, she said, after contracting a rare disease from chemotherapy treatments.
“She was cancer free but the drugs, the chemo, it killed her. [The cancer and treatment] was horrible, and so many women — people — are going through what she went through right now,” Workman said. “Cancer, all kinds of cancer, sucks. It’s not something anyone should have to live with.”
Female breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer diagnosed in West Virginia, according to the National Cancer Institute. As of 2018, the most recent year data is available, 75% of women between the ages of 50 and 75 reported having a mammogram performed over the previous two years, slightly lower than the national rate from the same time.
Between 2015 and 2019, an average of 22 West Virginians per 100,000 died annually from breast cancer, making it the second most fatal cancer in the state, per the Institute. Lung cancer led the state in cancer morbidity, with 51 per 100,000 residents on average dying annually from the disease.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 40-44 consider annual mammograms, which are x-rays of the breast that can alert doctors to any issues. Women 45-54 should do annual exams, and those 55 and older are recommended to have a mammogram every two years, or annually if they see fit.
If people have a family history of breast cancer — or other cancer — they should talk to their physicians on guidance for prevention and risk factors.
All proceeds from Sunday’s ride will be cash or check, Workman said. Someone from the CAMC Foundation will be on hand Sunday to keep track of the donations.
People participating will pay $15, or $20 if they have someone on the back of the bike. Cars, trucks, Jeeps and other modes of transport are also welcome to participate, Workman said.
“We know not everyone wants to or is able to ride, but that doesn’t mean they can’t participate,” Workman said. “There are lots of ways to be involved.”
Local businesses along the route — which starts at the Cancer Center, and will go down U.S. 60 through St. Albans to Old Winfield Road — have donated door prizes for the riders. Workman said there are about 20, and they will mostly be gift cards and other things easy for riders to carry with them.
“When I started calling around, I was in awe of how so many people wanted to do something,” Workman said. “It’s especially awesome because I know a lot of people are struggling right now.”
Workman hopes Sunday’s ride is the beginning of many for the Valkyries Ladies Club. When people think of “bikers,” Workman said it’s rare for them to conjure the image of a group of women, but she wants other women to see it’s possible.
“There are a lot of women interested, a lot who ride on the back of bikes or who want to try and ride more, and we want to encourage more women to get out,” Workman said. “We’re just a group of ladies who love riding and want to use it to give back to the community.”
Motorcyclists are not new to philanthropy. Workman said it’s a large part of being involved in the hobby, but the groups rarely get the recognition or credit they deserve for giving back to communities.
“The biker community doesn’t get the full credit they deserve — really, I mean that. Everyone sees a bunch of tattooed and bearded people, but there’s more to it. When you see a group riding down the road in different colors, different cuts, they’re probably doing a ride for someone else,” Workman said. “You can’t always do everything, but the little stuff matters. The biker community is here to help people.”
Registration for Sunday’s Think Pink ride starts at 11 a.m. in the CAMC Cancer Center parking lot, at 3415 MacCorkle Ave. SE. Donations must be cash or check, and checks can be made out to the CAMC Foundation.
For more information on the Think Pink Ride, the Valkyries Ladies Club or how to be involved, call Shari “Ultra” Workman at 304-951-7929.