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Commerce Bank says Challenge Accepted to Pedal the Cause

When Commerce Bank introduced its “Challenge Accepted” brand platform, it was intended to convey the bank’s willingness to help with the complex financial challenges many people must solve in order to achieve their goals.

Last fall, the phrase took on an new meaning for a group of employees who accepted a completely different kind of challenge: fighting cancer. That’s because they formed the bank’s first official team to participate in Pedal the Cause, a cycling event that provides critical funding for cancer research at Siteman Cancer Center and Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Every dollar raised goes toward research, and the ultimate goal of the annual cycling challenge is to help lead to a cure for cancer.

Bob Holmes, the chairman and CEO of Commerce Bank in St. Louis, had organized a Pedal the Cause team at a previous employer and saw the benefit of establishing a team at Commerce. Last year, he enlisted the help of Tim Kenney, a vice president at Commerce, to organize it all. As an avid cyclist who had already been organizing weekend rides for groups of employees, Kenney was a natural fit.

“It was easy to generate interest in forming a team,” Kenney says. “It turned out we had a lot of people lying in the weeds here who were avid cyclists. People really came out of the woodwork, and it was great.”

One of the hallmarks of Pedal the Cause’s approach is that it doesn’t require participants to be in peak physical condition; riders can select a course as short as ten miles or as long as 100 miles. There’s even an option to spin on a stationary bike. “A lot of our team members are novice riders who use this event as motivation to improve their physical condition and wellness,” says Kenney.

As part of their participation, each member of the Commerce team secures pledges from others in the community, and the bank matches a portion of the amount that the team raises. “Our motto of ‘Challenge Accepted’ fits perfectly with an initiative like Pedal the Cause,” he says.

Holmes also wasn’t surprised that so many colleagues at Commerce signed on to participate. “We’re very active in the community as an organization,” he said, “and Pedal is a great initiative with strong ties to the region. We felt it was a way for employees to get involved, whether they wanted to ride or volunteer. It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way.”

That’s particularly true for Regina Nelson, a director of marketing strategy who joined Commerce’s Pedal the Cause team in honor of her father. “My dad had recently died of cancer when I signed up,” she says. “It was a very heartfelt thing for me. He was the first to pass from cancer in my family.”

As it turned out, Nelson’s connection to cancer became even more personal. “Two weeks before the ride, I was diagnosed with cancer myself,” she says. “At first I joined because of my dad and because I like bike riding. Being diagnosed myself, that got me really involved.”

The event itself took on extra meaning for Nelson. “I rode that day and saw this sea of people, and at the time, I didn’t know what my long-term diagnosis was,” she says. “I really enjoyed the day and was glad I was part of it. It was emotional.”

Fortunately, Nelson reports she is now cancer-free. “It’s time to pay things forward,” she says, noting that she’ll be part of the Commerce team again this year. “This whole event gave me strength, gave me optimism, helped me persevere through what was a challenging time. It really was a true personal journey for me, and I likely will always support it.”

For Kenney, one of the best parts of the day is seeing the sheer number of people who come out to ride, or to simply cheer for the participants. “There are thousands of people doing it, and you see all these other big local companies out there with you,” he says. “It’s mind-blowing, the response you get along the route and at the finish line.”

Holmes notes that the event creates a true sense of camaraderie among participants. “It’s unique in that you get a true sense of team,” he says. “We all come together at the end, and there are so many people involved. It’s an opportunity for people to really get together as a team, accept the challenge, and support a good cause in St. Louis.”

For her part, Nelson agrees. “It’s important to really see what good our team is doing in the community, and to see how we pull together to help with something so significant,” she says. “It makes me proud to work for a company that invests in things like this.”

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