Man cycles across Florida to help patients in need of transplants

After receiving a transplant that saved his life, one man decided to start cycling to help others in the same situation

A cyclist is riding down the Florida coast to encourage people to donate bone marrow to help people.

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A leukemia survivor has spent the last thirteen years cycling to recruit more donors ever since a transplant saved his life.

Bob Falkenberg, originally from Colorado, started his latest ride in Jacksonville pedaling his way to the Florida Keys.

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“Once you get going, it’s fun,” Falkenberg said.

Now that he is retired, Falkenberg is a volunteer for the Be The Match patient-assistance grant program. All funds donated to the program help patients with expenses that aren’t covered by insurance, like travel to transplant centers.

“When I was being treated for the cancer, I made a decision that, if I got through all of that, I’d do whatever I could to help other people that are going through it,” Falkenberg said.

This is not his first 100+ mile ride. In 2011, Falkenberg rode from Boston to Key West, and in 2017, he rode from Vancouver to San Francisco. In 2021, he did thirteen courier trips delivering bone marrow stem cells from collection centers to transplant centers. He wears a wristband during his rides for another patient looking for a donor.

“I promised him when we were there visiting that we would find him a match, and fortunately, just a couple of months ago, they found a match for him,” Falkenberg said.

Falkenberg said when he was looking for a donor, he had thirteen perfect matches his doctors could choose from. But not everyone in need of a transplant faces the same odds.

“I’m of European decent, and there’s a lot of donors that are of a similar ethnicity, and a similar genetic makeup, so if you’re African American right now, there’s only a 29 percent chance of finding one donor on the registry,” Falkenberg said.

According to Be The Match, anyone aged 18-44 can register to be a donor. It’s a simple swab test to check eligibility.

Falkenberg said the process to donate is not painful — something most people ask him about.

He said it’s similar to donating plasma, and you can save a life.