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A therapeutic experience: LOWVELO helps rider channel loss into positivity

|   March 12, 2024

It’s the call no one wants to receive. The one where you learn someone you love has cancer. And that news can be even more difficult to take when you live 700 miles away them. For Michael Naioti, that call came in December of 2018 when he learned his dad, John Naioti, had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“We didn’t know what that journey was going to look like,” said Michael. “Having to deal with cancer from so far away presented a lot of challenges for me.”

And then Michael got another call. His company, TD Bank, had been asked to partner with MUSC

father and son
Michael Naioti and his father, John. (Photo provided)

Hollings Cancer Center on a new fundraiser called LOWVELO – a bike ride that raises money for lifesaving cancer research.

“Call it divine interference. Call it connection. Call it human nature. But obviously I was gravitating towards that type of involvement, being 700 miles from home and feeling a little helpless where I couldn’t be involved with my family with the meetings and with the doctor visits,” said Michael.  “So, I said ‘yes.’ We started Team TD in the first year and everything started from there.”

John was not able to attend that first event to watch his son ride, but Michael remembers how much of a cheerleader he was for Team TD.

“He was immensely touched by the support we received from our family and friends and was very proud of the work we did that first year.”

John passed away less than two months after that event and just about a year after being diagnosed. Michael remembers him as the kind of guy who made friends everywhere he went. 

“Whether it was the bank teller or the cashier at the grocery store, he became fast friends with everybody.”

Being part of LOWVELO was part of what helped Michael get through that year while so far away from his family.

large family posing for photo
Taking part in LOWVELO helped Michael deal with being so far away from home through his father's cancer journey. (Photo provided)

“Participating in year one of LOWVELO was very therapeutic in a way,” said Michael. “It’s tough because the one thing you typically leave behind when you relocate is your family. It made me feel a little helpless and a little distant, but LOWVELO was a great way for me to channel that energy and still be committed and show my love and support for what my dad was going through.”

Michael hasn’t missed a LOWVELO since its inception in 2019. He’s even become a member of the LOWVELO Executive Committee, a group of riders and sponsors that help plan and support the event behind the scenes. His team has gone from just a few riders to 10, as his wife, colleagues and friends have come alongside him to be part of the day each November. One friend even hopped on a train with his bike and traveled all the way to Charleston from Philadelphia to ride.

“LOWVELO is great because it offers a really positive experience for something most people associate with a negative experience,” said Michael. “I think for most people that are going through treatment and for family members and supporters of them, the hardest thing is talking about it. I think this ride offers an opportunity to be surrounded by people that truly understand.”

Through the first five years of LOWVELO, Michael and Team TD have raised nearly $48,000 for cancer research at Hollings. Every year he covers his bib with the names of anyone he knows who has been touched by cancer, and of course his father’s is always front and center.

“I ride LOWVELO as a way to remember my dad annually. It’s a chance to refocus my energy there and at the same time to provide some pathways for those moving forward that are still facing that path,”  said Michael. “That journey is something that nobody wants to go through and if we can do a little bit today to make those future journeys a little bit easier, then I think we’re doing the right thing.”

cyclists
Michael and Team TD celebrate after LOWVELO23. The team raised more than $7,000. (Photo by Ben Egelson)

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