Local News

Livestrong not about Lance Armstrong, local supporters say

Posted October 17, 2012 5:17 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2012 11:43 p.m. EDT

— Famed cyclist Lance Armstrong's resignation as chairman of his cancer-fighting charity won't have an effect on the work local YMCAs do to help those afflicted with the disease, organizers said Wednesday.

"Livestrong is more than one person," said Anthony Hall, with the Livestrong at the YMCA program at Alexander Family YMCA in Raleigh. "It's more than Lance Armstrong. It's the 12 million Americans who are in remission from cancer and the folks going through cancer right now."

The 41-year-old Armstrong, who started the Livestrong Foundation in 1997 after an inspiring comeback from life-threatening testicular cancer, made his announcement Wednesday, saying the move is to "spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career."

The consecutive seven-time winner of the Tour de France was stripped this summer of his championships amid a doping scandal that led the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to also ban him from cycling.

Armstrong, who has strongly denied doping, announced in August that he would not fight the claims, leaving the future of his foundation and its programs in question.

About 115 YMCAs across the nation have Livestrong at the YMCA, a free 12-week program that help cancer patients and cancer survivors fight the disease through health and fitness outside a medical setting.

"What we're trying to do with Livestrong at the YMCA is help folks come back to a new normal, so they can be with their kids, their spouses and the rest of their family for a lot longer of a time through remission," Hall said.

About 130 people have been helped through the Alexander YMCA.

As far as funding and support goes, Hall said, he believes nothing is in jeopardy.

Having Armstrong as the face of the Livestrong Foundation has helped to boost awareness and raise money for cancer treatment and research, but Ron Hamner, co-founder of the nonprofit Grab My Wheel, says he believes and hopes that Livestrong will continue to be strong.

"It'll be hard for some people not to have a level of disappointment, but it still comes down to, 'Who do you support?'” Hamner said. "Do you support a man or an organization that has made an impact on the lives of millions of people?"

Seven years ago, he and Dave Goodall, both avid cyclists, started Grab my Wheel. Since then, it has raised more than $300,000.

Goodall says his mother was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 2002, and not knowing where else to turn, he and his family turned to the Livestrong Foundation.

"We were able to dial in on the Livestrong Foundation and get assistance on education and what paths we needed to follow to help her fight her battle," Goodall said. "Ten years now, to date, her brain tumor is gone, and she's in remission."

"The organization isn't all about Lance," he added. "It's about cancer survivors."