GIVING BACK: A ride close to home

Lake Placid’s Jill Cardinale Segger rides 300 miles to raise money for cancer research

Jill Cardinale Segger poses with her bike-riding shirt. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — When her son was 13, Jill Cardinale Segger was launched onto a pathway that no parent wants to go on.

Her son Duncan, who is now a member of USA Luge’s national senior team, came back from a luge event in Park City, Utah with a lump on his neck. He was later diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2014. Through the surgeries and doctor visits that followed — all done while Segger was working full time at her hotel, The Pines Inn, and Duncan continued to compete in luge — Segger said she and her family received immense support from the Lake Placid community. Even people who she didn’t see often rallied behind them. It was partly that support that gave her the strength to stay positive.

“I can’t express how much easier it was knowing that everyone was pulling for you,” Segger said. “But it was still tough, and it was still hard, and there were days where you were kind of just like, ‘Why?’ Every parent who gets that diagnosis probably is like, ‘Is this real? Is this happening? Why us?'”

Duncan ultimately beat cancer. He’s been in remission for six years. But not everyone is lucky enough to have their child survive.

More than 15,000 children under 20 years old in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And although the number of children that ultimately die of cancer has declined by nearly 70% over the last four decades, according to the CDC, cancer is still the leading cause of death from disease among newborns to 14-year-olds.

Approximately 1,190 children under the age of 15 are expected to die from cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

That’s why this year Segger decided to hop on her road bicycle.

Segger discovered the Great Cycle Challenge online, a project that brings together cyclists to raise money for children’s cancer research.

“I like riding my bike, it’s for a great cause and one that means a lot to me,” she said. “If I could save just one family from starting out on that journey, it would be worth it. I remember how hard it was.”

The event was supposed to happen in June, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was pushed to September. That meant colder temperatures and more unpredictable riding conditions.

Nonetheless, Segger set a goal of riding 100 miles.

“I like to set attainable goals,” she said.

Segger ultimately rode more than 300 miles throughout the month of September. It wasn’t easy. There were days when Segger didn’t want to ride at all.

“Riding your bike in cold weather isn’t fun. There was a morning when I sat there and I thought, ‘I really don’t want to go today.’ And then I said, ‘But I’m going,'” she said. “I thought of all the families that were getting a diagnosis they didn’t want to get that day, and starting on a path they didn’t want to be on. It’s a really personal thing for me.”

On Sept. 9, when all donations were automatically matched as part of the challenge’s Kick Cancer’s Butt Day, Segger doubled her usual 20-mile route. She took a portion of the Lake Placid Ironman route and biked 44 miles.

“Coming back through the (Wilmington) Notch, I was stopping every mile,” she said. She laughed. “My legs just did not want to keep going.”

By the next day, she’d raised $1,000. She decided to keep riding.

As she approached the 300-mile mark last week, she wasn’t alone. Coming back through the Wilmington Notch, Segger had some spectators.

“I wasn’t paying attention at the cars passing me, and all of a sudden I’m coming down this hill and I see a car pulled off on the side of the road,” she said. “And I realize it’s my daughter’s car. I’m kind of looking, like, ‘What are they doing?’ Then all of a sudden I see my granddaughter’s face looking at me. She was so proud. That just … that was really cool.”

Segger ended September with 301 miles on the bike and $1,788 raised for children’s cancer research.

And her journey isn’t over. Segger plans on doing it again next year.