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The 2017 Raven Rock Ramble raised over $30,000 last month to assist kidney patients with emergency needs, while also promoting awareness of organ donation. The annual event celebrates the joy of cycling after one man’s kidney transplant. It also gives back to a continuum of care at the UNC Kidney Center.

David Cole with his wife Mary Hall at the 2017 Raven Rock Ramble
Cyclists pedaled for a purpose at the Raven Rock Ramble on May 7, 2017.

Many charities use bike events to raise funds and create awareness but few have a back story quite like the Raven Rock Ramble.

David Cole starting cycling in 1987, just after a knee injury took him away from running. He started riding in local group rides and centuries, developing strength and speed that allowed him to set a personal record in the 1997 Tour de Moore. Soon thereafter a routine physical exam detected red blood cells and protein in his urine. A kidney biopsy at UNC confirmed Cole had a condition known as IgA nephropathy.

From there, he experienced a slow physical decline. It was early 1998 when his primary care physician referred him to Dr. Ronald Falk who was the chief of nephrology at the time. But in the summer of 2000 it became clear Cole needed a transplant. His sister agreed to be his kidney donor on March 7, 2001, just in time to prevent him from going on dialysis. And by May, he was back on his bike doing eight-mile rides. He also set a personal record.

“I never expected I’d recover my speed and conditioning so quickly,” said Cole. “I was riding metric centuries by July and full centuries by September without the first quiver of leg cramps. I began to remember why I enjoyed cycling so much. I would ride for the simple joy of feeling my body move and the bike respond.”

One year after the transplant, Cole decided to use his passion to help kidney patients with emergency needs. The rest of his story is now history. Since 2002, the Raven Rock Ramble has raised more than $250,000 for the National Kidney Foundation of NC and the UNC Kidney Center.

On May 7, 2017, 620 cyclists came together to ride the 100-mile route west of the Cape Fear River and around Raven Rock State Park, passing through Wake, Harnett, Lee and Chatham Counties. The event raised over $30,000. Proceeds will go to the UNC Kidney Center’s Dialysis Patient Assistance Fund.

“I’ve been Dr. Falk’s patient ever since 1998, and I’ve always appreciated his care and compassion on my personal journey,” said Cole. “It’s encouraging to me personally to see the swelling support behind this ride and know how it helps others. Every participant, volunteer, and donor contributes to the UNC Kidney Center’s capacity to help dialysis patients with essential emergent needs.”

Next year’s Raven Rock Ramble will take place on Sunday, May 6, 2018. Registration will open on December 1. To learn more, visit Raven Rock Ramble.

Dr. Falk, chair of the department of medicine, has interviewed David Cole and supporters in previous podcast episodes from the Chair’s Corner. Following are links.