"Please, dear God, don’t let me have a heart attack and die right here,” he prayed.
A half hour later, Johnson was up and cycling again, pedaling with renewed energy and purpose, one of a team of eight from Commonwealth Bank who participated in the 2017 cancer fighting and education fund-raiser, Ride for Hope in Eleuthera.
“It was an awesome experience,” said Johnson, who had more than his share of inspiration to power on and pedal harder in the fight against cancer. His grandfather and four of his grandfather’s brothers all lost their battle with the disease. But it was a survivor who provided the greatest inspiration, a woman named Marion Lewis who works in the Town Centre Mall branch that Johnson manages.
“She’s a 19-year survivor and we all love her. We call her “Mama Lew”, she’s like everyone’s mom here at the branch,” said Johnson. While Mama Lew was in Nassau, she was never far from his thoughts as he pedaled up, down and around Eleuthera’s famed hilly roads. Only a handful of the 150 participants in the 2017 Ride for Hope went the full course of 100 miles.
“Originally, each team member committed to riding 25 miles” said Johnson, “But at the 20 mile rest stop, the company of Juliet Johnson and Latoya Smith was so great, and we wanted to see the Glass Window Bridge, we said let’s push five more miles before returning to complete the 50 mile ride. You think of people like ‘Mama Lew’ and it helps you to keep going on.”
In the end, most of the Commonwealth Bank team rode 50 miles, though Johnson said he, Juliet (who rode the distance with a broken toe and her foot in a protective boot) and Latoya proudly brought up the rear of the full complement of cyclists. Commonwealth Bank team members included Lavado Butler, Internal Audit Manager and other staffers Deanza Brennen, Deitra Delancy, Jermaine Jones, Juliet Johnson, Kenny Mackey, Latoya Smith and Johnson.
“We are extremely proud of our team who participated in this year’s Ride for Hope,” said Ian Jennings, President of the financial institution with some 6,000 shareholders. “Ride for Hope is a great event that draws attention to and raises funds for the fight against cancer, a cause with which Commonwealth Bank is closely aligned. Because some of the funds raised by Ride for Hope go to education about the importance of early detection, the ride helps to save lives and we are pleased to be part of it.”
In 2016, declaring that there was hardly a family untouched by the scourge of cancer, Mr. Jennings announced the bank was making a 10-year, $500,000 pledge to the Cancer Society of The Bahamas to assist with the operation and expansion of the Cancer Caring Centre. It was one of many causes and charitable organizations the bank supports with its largest corporate giving aimed at education. The bank has contributed more than $1 million to various education-related initiatives in the past decade.