Sons honoring late father with benefit to fight cancer

SALEM – A love of classic cars by a father lost to cancer has inspired a benefit to help others in their battle against the disease.

Planned from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday on Penn Avenue outside Mike’s Penn Avenue Grille in downtown Salem, the American Cancer Society Benefit Car & Bike Night is this year’s big fundraiser for the Salem-based Cardinal’s Peloton cycling team.

All proceeds will go to the ACS Hope Lodges in Cleveland and Cincinnati through the team’s donation as participants in the 2014 Pan Ohio Hope Ride, a four-day, 328-mile bicycle ride which starts in Cleveland and ends in Cincinnati July 24-27.

Jason Murray started as a team of one five years ago when he decided to hop on his bike in honor of his father, James “Lex” Murray, who died from cancer in March 2010. He thought of his father often as he struggled on hill climbs and kept riding anyway. His brother, Eric, joined him the next year and the Cardinal’s Peloton was born, with the cardinal representing their father, who liked birds.

He also liked classic cars, a love handed down to all four of his sons, Jason, Eric, Lex and Greg, who own more than a dozen classic cars between them, along with their father’s cars. The fleet includes several Chevelles, a ’70 Monte Carlo, a ’54 Cadillac Eldorado, a ’68 Chevy pickup, a ’59 Cadillac, a ’60 Ford Sunliner, a ’63 Impala and a ’91 454 SS pickup. A few of those car’s belonged to their grandparents.

The team has tried other fundraisers in past years, with their dollar goal increasing each year as the number of team members increased. This year’s goal is $40,000 and they’re already halfway there. Over the past five years, they’ve donated $66,000.

Jason said it made sense to go the route of a car and bike cruise considering how much they like cars. He also liked the idea of a downtown event, working with Mike’s Penn Avenue Grille owner Mike Cranmer and his family, who are donating their time, along with some of their employees.

Penn Avenue will be shut down between Pershing and State streets and some businesses have offered to stay open later and offer up their parking lots. They’ll be having a beer truck and other refreshments, a variety of summer cookout foods by Cranmer, raffles of a bike lift, engine stand and Summit Racing gift card, basket raffles of all types, 50/50, door prizes and a people’s choice award for the top car and top bike of the night.

Entertainment will include live music by Acoustic Vintage featuring Salem resident Ron Grey and by the Uptown Saturday Night Band.

The four main sponsors for the event include Stitle Construction of Salem, Stratton Chevrolet of Beloit, Envelope 1 of Columbiana and Ventra Salem. Many other businesses are donating prizes and items for raffle baskets. Any individuals or businesses wanting to donate can contact Jason at 330-360-4239.

Monetary donations can be made on the website at under the team Cardinal’s Peloton. All money goes to the Hope Lodges, which provide free lodging to cancer patients receiving treatment far from home and their families.

Besides the Murray brothers, both of Salem, returning team members include: Chris Mull of Salem; Scott Harris of Parkman (a 28-year-old cancer survivor who had his last chemo treatment four years ago); Brian Martin of Salem; Joe Mueller of Kentucky, originally from Salem; Justin Jeffers of Canal Fulton; Tony Lofreso of Cleveland; Chris Webb of Findlay; Bill Mickey of Damascus; David Schroads of Columbiana; and Dave Hughes of Salem.

New team members include: Dave Hughes’ son, Jeremy Hughes of Columbus, originally of Salem; Dave Hughes’ son-in-law, Jeremy Ross of Columbus; Brian Bortz of Canton (past Pan Ohio rider); Brian Ostrachvic of Columbus, originally of Salem; and Thomas Kiscke of Canton/Green.

“The more we do this, the more personal it gets,” Jason said.

The effort may have started because of his dad, but it’s continued because of all the family members, friends and co-workers of team members who have been affected by cancer. Their ragtag group of cyclists includes a member who won his battle with cancer, Scott Harris, and a former member in recovery now from a battle with cancer.

“Seeing what we’ve been able to do, I could not consciously stop doing it,” Jason said, pointing to the $100,000 donation mark they hope to reach this year after five years of effort. “I can’t just ignore that or walk away from that.”

When riding he sometimes questions why he’s doing it and goes through the whole range of emotions, but also finds it therapeutic. He said he enjoys the suffering to some extent, knowing the outcome. His kids also see what the team is doing and want to take part some day.

“They’re teaching generations the importance of volunteering and helping out. A little goes a long way,” Jason’s girlfriend, Kristy Quinn, said.

Jason said they’re receiving a lot of support from the community, from the sponsors, Mike Cranmer and family, Aarow Disposal and more, and he’s appreciative of that. He also said the benefit has received the support of the city for shutting down the street and having the beer truck.