Alumna Lauren McLelland Participates in first Great Cycle Challenge USA

Lees-McRae Alumna Lauren McLelland is on her way to cycling 100 miles in support of the Children’s Cancer Research Fund (CCRF). In the U.S. nearly 2,000 kids under the age of 19 die from cancer each year, making cancer the leading killer of children by disease.

Beginning in September, McLelland joined the virtual ride for the first time in support of 3-year-old Elena Navarrete, the daughter of a friend McLelland met while serving in the Navy. In September 2018, Elena was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer (Hepatoblastoma). She underwent chemotherapy and doctors removed part of her liver.

McLelland has already exceeded her personal goal of raising $500 as part of The Great Cycle Challenge, but will continue raising money with her team until she completes her 100-mile journey. The challenge, which started in 2015, has grown to become one of the biggest cycling events in the United States.

McLelland is no stranger to sports. The 2010 Lees-McRae graduate played lacrosse for the college and served as captain for the women’s soccer team her sophomore and senior years. McLelland who never participated in cycling at Lees-McRae says she wishes she had started riding recreationally back in college.

“Cycling is so much fun and gives you the opportunity to experience your community in such a different way than driving around in your car would,” said McLelland. “It’s interactive; you get to smile, wave, and say good morning. Exploring different paths can help you learn your way around and open your eyes to scenery, attractions, and local businesses that you never knew existed.”

After 10 years in the Navy, McLelland now lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin where she is a logistics specialist in the Navy Reserves.

Elena has been in remission since March 2019. She will have quarterly checkups until she is 8 years old, because her form of cancer can also appear in the kidneys. For now, her family and McLelland are optimistic about the future.

“Lena is still in remission and rocking the cancer-free life,” said McLelland. “GO LENA!”

Over 230,000 riders from 50 states have ridden 18 million miles in the Great Cycle Challenge, raising more than $24 million for research and the development of better treatments and cures for childhood cancer.

Chief Executive Officer at Children’s Cancer Research Fund John Hallberg said, “Thanks to riders like Lauren, we’re fueling groundbreaking research to save lives and give kids the brighter future they deserve.” During this year’s challenge, riders have pedaled 5,416,498 miles and raised nearly $14.5 million to fight children’s cancer.

To learn more about Lauren’s Great Cycle Challenge USA and to make a donation, please visit To participate in Great Cycle Challenge USA, visit

Photo Credit: Sean Krajacic, Kenosha News

By Lauren FosterOctober 02, 2020