Michigan dad with ties to Mendota pedals against pediatric cancer

Bicyclist seeks help meeting $50K goal

Mark Linder of Paw Paw, Michigan hopes to be atop his bicycle on Memorial Day as he begins the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The mostly-unpaved path winds from Banff, Alberta in Canada to Antelope Wells at the bottom of New Mexico. Linder hopes to raise $50,000 to fight pediatric cancer in memory of his son, Kevin.

Mark Linder foresees many days where his lungs and thighs will be burning and many nights wondering why he attempted to ride 2,700 miles through the Rocky Mountains.

Mark is a remarkable fellow. He’s a really serious bicycle rider, and he’s done several long rides, though I don’t think he’s done one this long.”

—  Dr. Oran Linder Jr. of Mendota

And each time he’ll remind himself: He’s doing it for Kevin, the son he buried after a courageous battle with cancer. Kevin never gave up his fight, and neither will Linder.

“He fought so hard for 3½ years, and there were so many times when we asked him if he wanted to quit treatments,” Linder said. “His answer was always, ‘Nope. We’re going to keep going.’

“It’s that kind of will that makes me keep going and not want to stop.”

Kevin Linder lost his fight with cancer in 2013, but his father hasn't quit the fight against pediatric cancer. Mark Linder of Michigan is appealing to friends and family in the Illinois Valley to help him trek 2,700 miles across the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Linder hopes to raise $50,000 to fight pediatric cancer in Kevin's memory.

Linder is a retired police officer in Michigan with ties to Mendota. He’s reaching out to his extended family in the Illinois Valley and across the nation for financial support as he prepares to launch a daunting fundraiser.

This summer, he’s riding his mountain bike across the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The mostly unpaved path winds from Banff, Alberta, in Canada to Antelope Wells at the bottom of New Mexico. If the sheer distance wasn’t enough, Linder will traverse 160,000 feet of elevation change – the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest five times.

“It’s going to be awesome – I hope,” Linder said, laughing. “But I’m sure there will be multiple days and hours where I’m questioning my life choices.”

Proceeds from the fundraiser will be directed to three cancer support groups: DC Strong, which provides care packages to children fighting; CureSearch, a research organization targeting pediatric cancers; and Make-A-Wish.

Mark and Kelly Linder availed themselves of all three when Kevin, the youngest of their three children, was diagnosed in 2010 with neuroblastoma at age 2. Kevin died in 2013, but his “incredible strength and refusal to quit fighting” inspired the Linder family to give back and support other families grappling with cancer.

One of the people helping Linder with the current fundraiser is his uncle, Dr. Oran Linder Jr., a retired optometrist in Mendota who well remembers Kevin’s long fight with cancer.

“It was a difficult time for all of us,” Oran Linder said. “He was very brave.”

Oran Linder is a cyclist himself, although his eyes widened some when he heard the specifics of his nephew’s upcoming trek. Oran Linder plans to urge family members and friends in the Illinois Valley to rally behind Mark and support the fight against cancer.

“Mark is a remarkable fellow. He’s a really serious bicycle rider, and he’s done several long rides, though I don’t think he’s done one this long.”

The longest Mark Linder has so far ridden was a 1,700-mile trek across part of the old Route 66. That was arduous in its own right, but ahead of his 50th birthday April 2, Linder contemplated making a once-in-a-lifetime fundraiser challenge.

He finally settled on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

“And now it’s too late to back out,” he said.

Linder isn’t going alone. His wife Kelly will drive the pilot vehicle and help him assess how many miles he can realistically pedal in a day. After finding lodgings for the night, Kelly will meet him atop her own bike and pedal a few miles to their daily destinations, which are fluid.

They’re in the final planning stages and need to settle a big question: Where to begin? If they start in sunny New Mexico, they can pedal north starting in May. Starting from Banff, however, means waiting for the snow to melt and, thus, precludes an early start. Either way, Linder hopes to be pedaling by Memorial Day.

Linder readily acknowledged it’s “a crazy idea,” but he means to meet his lofty goal of $50,000 raised for the three organizations that help kids fight cancer.

After he’s done with the ride – and finished icing his knees – he and Kelly plan to swap their home in Paw Paw, Michigan (the place is up for sale), for a recreational vehicle, where they can see America more comfortably.

None of which is to say he’ll be done fighting pediatric cancer.

“It’s incredibly important for us to keep going and support these organizations,” Linder said. “We wanted to continue Kevin’s legacy and never forget him.”

To donate

Mail contributions to 239 E. Michigan Ave. #222, Paw Paw, MI 49079 or visit Linder’s website at www.epicbikeride.org.

He conquered Route 66, now Mark Linder of Michigan is appealing to friends and family in the Illinois Valley to help him trek 2,700 miles across the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Linder is pedaling across the Rockies to raise $50,000 to fight pediatric cancer in memory of his son, Kevin.