Devoted Flyers Fan on 3,400-Mile Quest for Lung Cancer Awareness, Funds


Fifty-five-year-old John Matthews is a longtime executive with business data software giant SAP. While he loves his work, Matthews has found an even deeper passion: raising awareness and funding for lung cancer-related charities. His mother, Kathleen Matthews, passed away from the all-too-common and too-often-stigmatized form of cancer.


Five years ago, Matthews joined with family and friends to form a fundraising team called "Kathleen's Krew," participating in 5k events to raise money for lung cancer related causes, especially the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. The organization channels most of its proceeds directly into supporting lung cancer patients. He is also a strong advocate for the Lung Cancer Alliance, which provides science-based public education, screening and treatment referrals and fostering advancement in research for a cure. 


Matthews and his crew have been effective fundraisers: They have already raised and donated over $80,000 for the fight against lung cancer.  Now, he has an even more ambitious plan.


Today, Matthews will embark on a 3,400-mile bike ride that will start at the SAP offices in Newtown Square, PA and end at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA by October 14. Matthews has been training for the last six months with Nick Rogers of Philadelphia-based Breakaway Bikes to prepare for the grueling journey. Bob Burke from Guy's Bicycles in Philadelphia helped out on the equipment end.


Matthews' fundraising goal is every bit as lofty as the physical challenge of the 50-day ride across the country: he aims to raise $1 million to be donated to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and to the Lung Cancer Alliance. He also hopes that media attention to his quest will help spread the word about lung cancer education. 


There is a Flyers-related connection to Matthews' story. The Delaware Valley native is a lifelong Flyers diehard and longtime partial season-ticket holder.


"I was a kid when Doug Favell let in the Gerry Meehan goal with four seconds left that knocked the Flyers out of the playoffs on the final day of the season in '72. It was devastating. But two years later, I was allowed to miss school to go the first Stanley Cup parade. I've been hooked ever since. Later on, rooting for the Flyers became something I shared with my own son, who is in college now," Matthews said.  


Matthews, who recently participated in the Toyota Flyers Charity Classic, has befriended members of the Flyers organization and the Flyers Alumni Association. In particular, his story resonated with longtime Flyers defenseman Brad Marsh, who today serves as the Flyers director of community development as well as the president of the Alumni. 


Marsh, an avid cyclist, once bicycled coast-to-coast across Canada in a fundraising quest for Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. He marvels at the planning and preparation that has gone into Matthews' journey.


"When I did my ride across Canada, I basically just got on my bike, rode as long as I possibly could and then picked up again the next day. With John, every detail has been planned and mapped out very carefully. For example, he built in time for the possibility of encountering bad road conditions or severe weather where he might not be able to ride much for a few days. It's very impressive," Marsh said.


Marsh will be on hand on Thursday to lend his support as Matthews embarks on his journey from Newtown Square to San Francisco. Beforehand, he will present Matthews with a special gift: a Flyers bike jersey. 


"Brad is a great guy and I am happy he's going to be there on behalf of the Flyers," Matthews said on Monday. "I'm going to wear my Flyers jersey periodically during the ride. I'm pretty excited about that, actually."


Matthews notes that fellow Flyers fans can help out his cause in a couple of different ways. He notes that donations in any amount to his "Ride Hard, Breathe Easy" quest are greatly appreciated. Even if someone is not financially able to donate, they can spread the word about his ride and follow, like and/or comment on Twitter (@Ride4Lungs), the Ride Hard, Breathe Easy Facebook page or by checking out and sharing the tour diary blog that Matthews plans to update periodically during his journey.