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In early 2008 I was provided the opportunity to be part of something special. A close friend of mine, Ken Scarberry, Executive Director of Team Will Non-profit Organization, was organizing a 10-day bicycle ride across America, set to take place mid-summer. It was to be a charity event to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer research. Team Will is a bicycling organization that Ken and a few others founded in response to the tragic death of a friend's son, William (Will) Kiefer, who lost his own battle at the age of 17 months after a courageous struggle with a rare form of childhood cancer.

Cancer is the leading disease killer of children, cutting short the lives of more children under the age of 20 than any other disease. Every school day, 46 children - two classrooms of students -- are diagnosed with cancer in this country. More than 12,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year and over 40,000 children and adolescents are currently being treated.

I never met William, and have never been personally affected by -- nor known anyone who had childhood cancer -- until I began this journey. Many adult members of my own family have waged a personal battle with cancer. I have seen and been a part of the trials of cancer, but none have been children. I have realized for some time now that something needs to be done to put an end to cancer but, honestly, I never really knew what I could do.

In early 2004, I started my own production company (Timeline Media Productions) beginning with filming weddings. Work, like life, is a constant learning process. One takes everything one learns from previous projects and applies those lessons to the next. So, over the years I have built a solid resume of professionalism, including filming for National Geographic, working with the Library of Congress, co-producing a documentary, released nation-wide, focusing on the repercussions of teenage binge drinking. I have also taken on the role of part-time video productions teacher at a local high school.

I'm also a traveler and enjoy seeing new places and meeting new and diverse people. Early on, my parents instilled in me their love of travel and by the time I was 18, I was fortunate to have visited all but two of the states of our country. I have traveled to most of the National Parks and visited numerous historic roadside markers. Therefore, having traveled the country many times by car, by plane and train, riding bicycles at an average of 15 miles-per-hour over 3,300 miles would be a whole new way to see America. So when I was presented with the opportunity to produce a documentary of this ride, this project was clearly a natural fit for me.

When I first agreed to work on this project I had only two goals: 1) Don't produce a promotional video about Team Will, but rather to tell a story and convey a message (Of course I had no idea what that would be or how I would do this), and; 2) If I were to demonstrate how delicate the subject matter of childhood cancer was, I was going to have to find the fine line between sharing the children's stories and those of their families without inadvertently exploiting them. So, with these two goals in mind - and armed with only a couple video cameras and a small bag of clothes - I set out on a 10-day adventure that was to become a life changing experience.

At the start, most of the team members were strangers to me. I knew only three of the 24 members, so this ride was going to be more than just a charity fundraiser; it was going to be a sociological experiment. In essence, let's take 24 strangers, make them live out of 5 small minivans together for 10 days while slowly creeping across the United States on bicycles at 15 mph, document it all on video it and see what happens.

The result was, after riding over 3300 miles from San Francisco to Washington D.C., crossing 14 states in 10 days, visiting with countless children fighting cancer in hospitals across the country, and helping to successfully lobby in front of the Senate for the passage of the Carolyn Pryce-Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act, we (Team Will) had become a family that had gone to hell and back with a goal of making a difference.

As the ride progressed, the message I wanted to share as a director became clear to me somewhere in the flats of Indiana. As much as this documentary is a call to put an end to childhood cancer, I feel there is an even deeper inspirational message inter-woven throughout. "It's not okay to sit back and let things happen when you can make a difference." I believe it's a message the viewer can walk away with and apply to their everyday life. Whether it's fighting for a cause they believe in such as cancer research, or something as simple as helping an elderly neighbor carry out their trash, because even small acts can help make a difference in someone's life.

The ride personally changed me in so many ways. I have seen how this disease can tear apart one family and how that same disease can bring another family closer together. How arbitrary and random a killer this disease is and how it doesn't discriminate by age, race, sex, or religion. Better methods of treatment still need to be discovered. A cure is out there, waiting to be found. Because I wholeheartedly believe in the cause, I have since become a Board Member for Team Will. I will lend my efforts to bringing attention to this disease in the hopes of one day finding a cure. The children and their families whom I met along the way, made a significant difference in my life. Though my role has been a very small one, I hope to make a difference in theirs.

So the big question everyone asks me is “Would you do this ride again?” I am and I can't wait! 2010, San Francisco, CA to Kittyhawk, N.C.

Make a difference,

Ernie Holly
Timeline Media Productions