For Dwayne Accardo, DNP, CRNA, FAANA, participating in the Ride 2 Rosemary (R2R) presents a golden opportunity to combine two of his passions: giving back and cycling.
Dwayne, who has been with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) since 2006, currently serves as the program administrator for the Nurse Anesthesiology Concentration. In his clinical practice, Dwayne works in the Methodist Healthcare System serving the Memphis area.
In his free time, he rides.
“I’ve been cycling for about 12 years now,” said Dwayne, explaining how he got hooked on the sport. “I was 40 years old—about 10 years into my practice and becoming overweight. I knew I needed to find something healthy to do that I would enjoy. I had some friends who were cyclists, so I bought a bike and started riding. I enjoyed riding so much, that it became a lifestyle for me over the years. I now ride three to four days a week when not training for a specific event.”
Dwayne also finds immense fulfillment in giving back—as a mentor to his students, caregiver to his patients, and member of society. On Oct. 8, 2022, he was thrilled to be one of more than 60 cyclists who departed on the annual five-day, 525-mile journey from Germantown, Tenn. to Rosemary Beach, Fla.—the Ride 2 Rosemary. For 11 years, athletes have participated in this charitable cycling event to promote cancer awareness and raise funds for the fight against cancer. R2R advocates a healthy, active lifestyle and supports the mission of West Cancer Foundation.
“The R2R is by invitation only,” Dwayne said. “I was honored when I was invited to become involved with my first ride in 2021, and even more so to be asked back for the 2022 ride.”
Dwayne’s father died of liver cancer, making participation in the event all the more special. “As a CRNA, I feel very fortunate to be part of such a wonderful profession,” he explained. “We see first-hand the effects of cancer on patients. Volunteering for an event like this brings a sense of personal satisfaction that few other experiences bring. It also shines a positive light on our profession.”
The R2R’s beginnings were both humble and inspiring. “When the ride was first started in 2011, it was really just nine guys who were going to ride their bikes to the beach to help one of the men heal who was going through a hard time,” said Keri Burnette, Manager of Operations and Donor Relations for the West Cancer Foundation. “Since they were riding, they thought they could do it for a cause. One of the cyclists was Dr. Todd Tillmanns, a physician at West Clinic. He suggested they raise money for the West Cancer foundation. The rest is history.”
West Cancer Foundation, while not a sponsor of the R2R, is the beneficiary of the team’s fundraising efforts. Over the years the cyclists have raised more than $1.6 million through sponsorships and peer-to-peer fundraising to help cancer patients.
“One of our new teammates this year was asking to speak about his experience,” Dwayne said. “His message was profoundly inspiring. He said that when he was struggling on the climbs during the ride, one of us would place our hands on his back and give him a gentle push. He said that this gentle push was enough to encourage him to dig deeper and keep going. He stated that if everyone would give this type of assistance, metaphorically speaking, to someone in need, the world would be a better place. I couldn’t agree more.”
Dwayne said there were countless memorable moments during the ride, but he frequently thinks about two in particular. “There’s a particular stop along the ride that we make every year, and a man with Down syndrome is always there waiting for us,” Dwayne recalled. “The excitement and joy for him is so apparent; he clearly looks forward to our arrival! We all spend a good deal of our time with him and he gets plenty of hugs.”
Another highlight for Dwayne and the other cyclists was pulling into the courtyard at Rosemary Beach. “The road was lined with people cheering for us. It truly was awe inspiring,” Dwayne said.
Asked whether he would ride again next year if invited, his answer was an instant, emphatic, “Yes!”
Dwayne had a few words of wisdom for individuals interested in taking up cycling and for those who are still at the novice level. “Just like any activity that requires physical exertion, it takes time to get comfortable with it,” he said. “Stick it out, and you will get there.” And perhaps someday make the 525-mile trek to Rosemary!
An active member of TANA, Dwayne currently contributes his time and expertise as a member of the Education Committee. He lives in Piperton, Tenn.
Learn more about the West Cancer Foundation and the R2R at https://westcancerfoundation.org/r2r/.