Sometimes you have to be a Big Galoot to make a big difference.
That’s the sentiment that has driven Kathy Hart to pour her heart and soul into organizing the Big Galoots for the first eight years of VeloSano. The team of riders, led by Bob Rich, 1921 Society member and Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees at Cleveland Clinic, travels to Cleveland every year from Buffalo, New York, to participate in VeloSano Bike to Cure weekend.
Hart recently retired after working more than 42 years at Rich Products Corporation in Buffalo, where she spent a number years as Bob Rich’s Executive Assistant. When the idea of VeloSano, the fundraising event supporting cancer research at Cleveland Clinic, became a reality, Rich was asked if he would take part. He charged Hart with rallying together a team of riders.
Hart was up for the challenge — not only because she believed in the cause, but because she also had a personal connection to Cleveland Clinic. In 2008, her daughter, Caitlin, had a life-threatening illness and needed to be airlifted to Cleveland Clinic.
“This was my first exposure to such a world-class hospital — and a little premonition of the future,” says Hart. “Thanks to the care we received at Cleveland Clinic, Caitlin is alive and thriving today: married, a mother of three and working as a physician assistant.”
Following her family’s life-changing experience at Cleveland Clinic, Hart felt the need to give back. When the opportunity to participate in the VeloSano Bike to Cure event presented itself, she jumped at the chance. “I love working with people, so I said, ‘Well, this sounds like fun!’” she recalls. “Admittedly, I was a little nervous because I didn’t really know exactly how it was going to go, but we got a small group of us to participate, and we loved it. We’ve been building on it ever since.”
And the Big Galoots have built quite a bit. Having participated in the Bike to Cure event every year since the inaugural event in 2014, the team has raised more than $1.2 million for cancer research at Cleveland Clinic.
You can’t miss them in their fluorescent bike jerseys. “When the Big Galoots come into downtown Cleveland for the Friday Night Kickoff Party, it’s a scene,” says VeloSano Director Kandis Schreiber. “Everyone knows the Big Galoots. Kathy and her team not only bring the dollars to support cancer research at Cleveland Clinic, they bring the fun to Bike to Cure.”
When COVID-19 put a halt to the in-person Bike to Cure event in 2020, Hart built a virtual team with 64 members. They raised more than $71,000. The addition of the virtual fundraiser option has made it even easier for team members who can’t make the trip from Buffalo to support the cause.
“To have the opportunity to support cancer research at Cleveland Clinic alongside Bob and Mindy Rich and the many Rich Products associates — it has truly been one big team effort, and I’m so happy and honored and privileged to even be able to be a part of it all,” says Hart. “From the first time the Big Galoots showed up at Bike to Cure through now, it has just been fantastic. The support we’ve received from Cleveland Clinic has been amazing.”