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The most heartwarming story of the weekend was the one of Lakin and her mother Erin. ?Lakin is 7 years old and this past year she lost her father to cancer. ?So how did she handle the grief? ?She told her father’s story to whoever would listen [How could you not? ?See photo below] and raised 23,000 dollars herself!!! ?She was honored at the small reception on the eve of the LiveStrong Ride for the Roses by being the first person to greet Lance on stage. ?After hearing her story I could not help but go over to her mother and say that she reminds me of a young Jessica Hindman. ?Jessica is one of our teammates and one of my best friends, who lost her father when she was two years old. ?Jessica’s mother Beth and step-father Matt did an?incredible job raising this woman and I think the relationship spiritually Jess has with her father is one of those unique gifts that compliment such a thoughtful, caring person. ?Jessica has one of the biggest hearts I have ever seen and I told Leikan and her mom that Jess [with the support of her husband Vince] made me dinner every Monday during the treatment and seemed generally bummed that we made her stop after I began healing. ?If I had not said stop I think she’d still be bringing dinner three years later.

The reason I write this post is two-fold. ?The first is inspiration – this seven year old set her mind to something and accomplished it. ?I don’t remember exactly what I was doing at seven but it sure as heck wasn’t raising funds and awareness for such an important cause. ?The second is a reminder – a reminder that the fight is far from over. ?Awareness is the first step, support is the second step – and I feel as if we are well underway on step 2 – but the goal is a world that is cancer free so that future Leikan’s and Jessica’s fathers can watch their kids grow up.

In another post I explained that Lance was handled pretty tightly – and rightfully so due to his incredibly tight schedule – but Lance showed the father inside when dealing with Lakin. ?We were told no autographs, the one-on-one time would be limited to a quick chat and a photo on the ride but when I got off the bus before the start of the ride I saw Lance and Lakin talking. ?She had her marker out and was getting an autograph and had him all to herself – it was her world, not his. ?She later told me that the one question she asked Lance was, “Where are your streamers?” [see pic below for context] ?To which he replied, “You know, I’ll have to get some black and yellow ones for my bike.”

The last story she shared with me was her fundraising secret. ?She asked if I wanted to know how she raised all that money and I said, “Of course, how?” ?And she didn’t have to say a word, she just smiled. ?I tear up thinking about Jess’s story – but I’m so thankful to have her smile in my life.

Lakin rides in Memory of her Dad – Jeff.