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Naperville man to ride in CowaLUNGa Bike Tour in memory of grandmother

Every August, Jason Pyrz, of Naperville, rides in the CowaLUNGa Bike Tour in memory of his grandmother, Mary Colin. During his childhood, his family lived only one mile from Mary in Bridgeview, and he spent a lot of time with her, the “foundation of his family.”

“Most of my memories from growing up include my grandmother,” Jason said. “She and my grandfather accompanied my family and me on our first trip to Disney World, and it was at her house that our extended family would always celebrate Christmas.”

Jason looked forward to summers when he could play in her pool and enjoy their shared interests, such as sifting through her coin collection. Unfortunately, Mary was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1990, when Jason was 13. She was hospitalized after falling down the stairs, and a full-body scan revealed spots on her lungs. She had surgery, six weeks of radiation, then chemotherapy, hoping to beat the cancer. But, a few months later, tests showed it had spread to her bones and organs.
Mary moved to hospice care at home. Jason can still recall one of the last conversations he had with her in her hospital bed, which was in the middle of the living room where they’d held most of their family gatherings.

“She called my brother and me into the room and split up her coin collection between the two of us,” he said. “That’s when I realized she was leaving us.”

Mary passed away one week after her 69th birthday.

Years later, Jason still thinks of her often and wants to keep other families from going through what his did. This August will be his third time riding in the CowaLUNGa Bike Tour, hosted by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to raise awareness and funds for local lung disease research, advocacy and education, including smoking cessation programs and lung cancer research.

“When I rode in CowaLUNGa the first year, I fell in love with the organization, the people and the event,” Jason said. “This is the most well-run ride I’ve ever participated in, and from start to finish, the route is beautiful.”

On August 4, Jason will join more than 200 cyclists at the starting line in Gurnee, Ill., to help raise more than $200,000 for lung health. The 190-mile route runs from Northern Illinois to Southern Wisconsin, with scenic rest stops along the way. Jason’s wife and 4-year-old daughter will also ride for several miles, and his father is volunteering along the route. He said he’s happy he gets to share this event with his family, and honor family members who aren’t with him anymore.

“I’d be hard-pressed to find a bike tour I enjoy more,” Jason said. “The friendships you make and the good you’re doing extends beyond CowaLUNGa.”

To support Jason in his fundraising efforts or to offer words of encouragement, go to www.lungchicago.org/jasonpyrz.

If you’re interested in riding in honor or in memory of a loved one affected by lung disease, register today. Until June 30, new riders who sign up for the two- or three-day ride will receive 50 percent off their registration fee. For more information or to register, go to www.lungchicago.org/cowalunga.

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