For 20 years now, amateur cyclists have raised awareness about organ, blood, tissue and marrow donation with the Lone Star Circle of Life Bike Tour. This year, the trip started Sunday in Tyler and will end Friday in Corpus Christi after making stops in four other cities.
The tour includes 12 riders who have been affected by donations as either a recipient, family member, donor or advocate. Each day, bicyclists will ride to a new city in recognition of a Texan needing a transplant, according to the organization’s website.
At each local event, the riders will explain why they’re participating in the tour and tell the story of an honoree.
The kickoff event in Tyler began with riders meeting with local honorees, followed by a presentation at the Tyler Christian Fellowship. Participants then traveled to Corsicana.
Other honoree presentations will be made in Waco, College Station, Katy, Victoria and Corpus Christi. A list for each city is available on lscol.com/bike-tour-honorees-for-2019.
Joe Canal, of Tyler, a tour rider for many years, has a strong connection to tour’s purpose.
His son received a heart donation at 17 years old, which let him live for 13 more years. When his son died, he donated as much as he could, Canal said.
He saw the bike tour come through Tyler in 1999 and wanted to be involved.
“I love to ride my bike, but the main thing is riding to honor those who give the gift of life,” Canal said. “I just feel a great debt of gratitude.”
The tour raises awareness about the donation process and registries, and money is raised by the riders and corporate sponsors, Canal said.
Canal connected Seth Cooke, a two-year bike tour cyclist, with the bike tour event and its mission.
Cooke said he rides as an advocate in memory of his brother, Isaac, an organ donor who died at 19 in a 2002 motorcycle accident.
“It’s about raising awareness on all facets of donation,” Cooke said. “It’s about trying to save lives.”
Events will be held in the towns for people to donate blood, sign an organ and tissue donation card or register for the Be the Match Registry, the website stated.
Be the Match Registry is a tool of the nonprofit organization, National Marrow Donor Program, serving as a way to connect patients in need of bone marrow donations with possible donors, according to the registry’s website.
Cooke said a big part of the tour is getting people signed up for the bone marrow registry.
Felecia Herndon, 56, is the vice president of an organization that recruits businesses to Tyler and helps existing ones develop.
The Tyler Economic Development Council, affiliated with the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, helps businesses find locations, property tax abatements and other incentives.
Born and raised in Troup, Herndon lived in Houston as an adult and worked for M.D. Anderson Cancer Center before returning to live in her hometown. She has worked in education, human resources and finance.
How did you get into the field?
Accident. Totally and purely by accident. I was living in Houston and — I’m from here but I had moved to Houston and was living in Houston — and got divorced, moved back here, and I was looking for a job. And I went through an employment agency and applied for a job with Tyler Economic Development Council. That was in 1992. And I came here to work as (CEO Tom Mullins’) assistant, and I was here five years. I became knowledgeable in economic development during that time. There just wasn’t any room for me to grow back then. So I left, and when I left I got into HR, and then education, and when the lady had been in my position for many years retired, Tom and I had a conversation — because Tom had mentored me for all 27 years. He asked if I’d be interested in coming back. … I gave it some thought and came back in 2014.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is having the opportunity to work with the different community leaders and getting to know these companies when we work with them and know that I can have a part in creating new jobs for this area. So it’s a process, but I enjoy doing it because I know at the end of it comes something good and I didn’t have appreciation for that and how all of that works until I came here.
What is something that people don’t know about you?
A lot of people don’t know that I have horses. I actually have six horses, and I race them. They’re here in Texas. It’s a club sport. So I have one that I race under saddle here, and I have two that I race officially under the U.S. Trotting Association, and I race those in Kentucky, Illinois — we go all over. I have horses now in Kentucky racing at the Red Mile. So I’ve had horses since about 1997 and so it’s fun. I absolutely just love it.
I’m getting a doctorate in finance. I am working on my D.B.A. … I have an MBA and a bachelor’s in business management from LeTourneau University. I started working on my doctorate prior to coming back here because I was in education and I thought perhaps I may stay doing that. I was working in the career and technology field to serve as an academic dean, so I started working on my doctorate, and it has been — it’s difficult when you’re trying to do that and work at the same time. So I had some starts and stops. I’m at the end of it now. I’m looking at the performance of boards and CEO duality and how important board independence is to the performance of an organization.
When was your last horse race?
Aug. 8 at the Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky. My horse’s name is Rock N Kilo. That was her name when I bought her. Her dad’s name was Rocknroll Hanover so part of her name comes from him. Her mom’s name is Three Kilos, and her dad’s name is Rocknroll Hanover, so they named her Rock N Kilo. A lot of horses are named that way. They pick their names based on their mom and their dad.