Kyle Vannoni was just 12 years old when his mom, Peggy, passed away from metastatic breast cancer. In 2017, he launched Tour de Komen, a 100-mile bicycle ride to raise funds in support of Komen’s Wabash Valley Race for the Cure. Since his first event, Kyle has raised more than $300,000 to support Komen’s vision of a world without breast cancer. This is his story in his own words.
My mom was a force of nature.
Education was so important to her, and she homeschooled me from first grade until the middle of fourth grade. Most of my memories of her are centered around the homeschooling lessons she taught me. We would take one-on-one field trips to different parks, where she would teach me about nature and insects in a way that was just so natural.
I was 8 years old when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment just took so much out of her. But no matter what she was going through or how sick she was feeling, she made sure I put 100% into everything, whether it was my education, learning the piano or playing baseball. She instilled in me a drive to do more than just the minimum.
When I was 12, her breast cancer returned in the form of metastatic breast cancer. She just refused to give up, so when she passed away at age 47 in 1997, my dad and I knew we needed to do something to help make an impact against breast cancer. And that year was the first time Susan G. Komen hosted a Race for the Cure event in Terre Haute, Indiana. We formed a team and have participated and fundraised every year since. We started a tradition of hosting a cookout after the race, and it just became a huge celebration – not just of the success of the Race, but a celebration of my mother and her legacy. We looked forward to that cookout more than Christmas because everyone who was important in her life would come and we were able to remember her.
When I was older, I took over leadership of our Race team. I’ve got a competitive nature – from playing sports and my career in sales – and I was determined we would have the largest team that would bring in the most money. It wasn’t until a woman approached me after we received the top fundraising award at the Race that the impact we were making really hit me. She came up to me and said, “Thank you. Because of the funds you raised, I was able to tap into Komen’s resources to help detect and treat my breast cancer. I’m now cancer-free.”
I began cycling in 2017. One day, while out riding with my friend, Will Rayner, we came up with the idea to cycle from my garage in Fishers, Indiana, to Terre Haute as a part of our Race for the Cure fundraising. There were seven of us that first year – and thanks to the support of my employer, Republic National Distributing Company, we were able to raise more than $23,000. Tour de Komen was born.
Our second year, we recruited 15 cyclists who raised $50,000. For me it became, “How can we make this even bigger and bring in more people and more money for Komen? Let’s bring in someone famous!” One night, I reached out to former Indiana Pacers basketball player Reggie Miller on Instagram and much to my surprise, he replied and wanted to help promote the event. He shared it all over his social media channels and brought five professional female cyclists to participate. He went on a training ride with me a few days before the event and really tried to connect with my family and the mission behind Tour de Komen. Thanks in part to his support, our 2019 event brought 50 cyclists who raised $113,000.
The 2020 Tour de Komen was a much smaller event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We limited our participants to no more than 10, and with just nine cyclists, we still managed to raise more than $30,000. Since then, the event has continued to grow. Last year, we had 80 riders. As we go into our seventh year, my goal is to have 100 cyclists participate. The long-term success of Tour de Komen is going to be based on how many people we get involved and getting them to branch out. The donations will grow naturally from there.
As this journey continues forward, my mom will continue to be the heart and soul of the ride. As a kid, I didn’t fully understand what was going on around me, and when she died, I felt like a part of my heart was ripped away from me. With Tour de Komen, my mission is to ensure that one day, no other child has to lose a parent to breast cancer.
The 2023 Tour de Komen will be held Saturday, Sept. 23. Registration is $100 with a suggested $25 fundraising minimum. Money raised from the event supports the Wabash Valley MORE THAN PINK Walk, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 14, at St. Mary’s of the Wood College in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.