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'24 Hours Of Booty' Marks 17 Years Of Pedaling For Cancer Awareness

Nick de la Canal

Charlotte's annual "24 Hours of Booty" charity event marks 17 years this weekend, and what a ride it has been. Just ask founder Spencer Lueders.

"The first event was literally me riding around by myself, without even knowing if I could make it," Lueders, 47, said during a break midday Saturday.

He's a little sweaty, and admits he's had only a couple hours of sleep, but he's chipper as ever.

The event was founded in 2002 after Lueders got an itch to do something to raise awareness for people impacted by cancer. At the time, cancer had not directly touched his family, but, he says, "I didn't want to wait around for something to happen, I wanted to do something right then."

So he notified neighbors, mounted his bicycle, and rode around Myers Park's 'Booty Loop' (a 3-mile loop that encircles the Queens University campus) for 24 hours.

A few friends joined him, and then, as he recounted to the CharlotteFive Podcast, "people started riding with me who I had never met before. And they were either a survivor, or they had lost a family member ... and at the end of it, I said, I have to do this for everybody, this has to be a thing."

Since that first ride, the annual event has expanded into a multi-state operation, hosting sister events in Baltimore and Indianapolis — although the event in Charlotte remains the largest, attracting some 1,200 cyclists and several hundred walkers each July.

This year, the event raised $1.8 million, beating out last year's record of $1.75 million. In total, the 24 Foundation has raised $21 million since the inaugural event in 2002. The funds are donated to the Levine Cancer Institute, the Levine Children's Hospital, and other organizations that support cancer "navigation and survivorship."

"I'm just blown away," Lueders said. "I know that it has saved people's lives. I've had survivors tell me that in person, and it's helping people directly. It's real, brick-and-mortar, tangible stuff that we're doing."

The race kicked off at 7 p.m. Friday at the corner of Queens Road and Wellesley Avenue and ended at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal