'Man of the Year' Is Also a Survivor

'Man of the Year' Is Also a Survivor

Winner raises more than $52,000

In an attempt to raise something more important than money, Tony Hobbs-Boiardi, cycled across America in 30 days to raise awareness about blood cancer for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

"These kids that are diagnosed with Leukemia, they're not expecting it," said Boiardi, owner of Quantum Advanced Technologies, a research development company working on the next generation of broadband modems. "They're expected to fight for their lives and they do. So hell, what's cycling across America when they're fighting for their lives?"

Each year the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society holds a national, eight-week, campaign where men and women from across the country raise funds for blood cancer research, said Tammy Moloy, deputy executive director for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Alexandria office.

Earlier this month, at the annual D.C.-region "Man and Woman of the Year" gala, Boiardi, 37, was announced as the 2004 "Man of the Year."

"They were highly dedicated, motivated, mission-oriented individuals who put their lives on hold for two months to benefit the lives of others," said Moloy of this year's recipients.

To capture the title, Boiardi, who moved from England to Arlington six years ago, raised more than $52,000.

Although he was campaigning for others, as a Hodgkin's Disease survivor, he knows what it's like to fight.

"I had a mild version of what a lot of children are suffering from, and what a lot die from," said Boiardi, who was diagnosed 11 years ago. "Every penny I was raising was going to help change a child's life."

Stan Gutkowski, managing partner of US government practice for Accenture, commended Boiardi's efforts.

"The fact that he actually cycled cross country to raise money is just a test to his commitment to the cause," said Gutkowski, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society board member.

Gutkowski said that Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company based in Reston, joined the "Man and Woman of the Year" campaign four years ago.

Boiardi said because D.C. has a high number of charities, campaigning was competitive.

"Charities are often very competitive at getting people's money," he said. "If you're going to ask someone for money, very few people are going to say this is what I am going to sacrifice for your money. My method was to show people I was dedicated enough to this cause."

In 30 days Boiardi rode 2,885 miles, averaging 100 miles a day.

His campaign slogan summarized the sacrifice: "Thirty days away from my children to ensure no parent will have to spend a lifetime without theirs."

"I hit the wall more often than you can imagine," he said. "But, every time I got to the lowest point, something would happen that would really inspire me to keep going."

He said while refueling his campaign RV in a small town in Oklahoma, a man approached him.

"The night before I had talked to my wife and I said, 'I have lost the message, people don't care,'" he said, adding as he walked out of the station store, "a guy walked up to me and hugged me and said, 'I just want to thank you. It's because of people like you doing what you do, that I am alive today.'"

Boiardi said the man was a cancer survivor.

"That was the whole point of why I was on the journey," he said, adding he met many people along the way who had stories of survival and loss.

Although their support pushed him, he admitted it was painful and required the once conditioned athlete to rely on endurance - something many professionals told him he couldn't maintain at that distance for thirty days.

"I knew they were all talking a lot of hooey," he said. "As long as you can stay away from injury and stay hydrated and eat well it's doable."

Training for three months before departing from Santa Moica, Calif. to Washington, D.C., Boiardi thought he was ready for the challenge.

But he didn't anticipate the 95-degree weather in Tennessee, the 25 to 30 mile an hour head-winds in Texas, or being hit by a car and thrown 30 feet into oncoming traffic just days before he finished his ride.

Even with nature against him, 6'7" athlete didn't quit.

"I've never been someone to say something and not follow through," he said.

"I'd do it again though," he added without hesitation, "I am going to do it again."