Supporter Spotlight: How Verdun Perry Turned Passion into Purpose

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Man and his daughter look at the camera with exercise bikes behind them

Vern with his daughter, Alanna, at a Cycle for Survival event in 2019.

When Verdun “Vern” Perry opened an email in 2007 from his friend Dave Linn inviting him to a Spinning fundraiser for rare cancer research, he immediately responded, “I’m in.”

A few moments later, Vern wrote back, “By the way, what is Spinning?”

Soon, Vern had a new purpose in his life — raising money for Memorial Sloan Kettering’s rare cancer research. Dave and his wife, Jennifer Goodman Linn, founded Cycle for Survival, then called Spin4Survival, while Jen was being treated for a rare form of sarcoma at MSK. Vern had been friends with the couple since they all met at Harvard Business School, so when Dave reached out to Vern, there was no question that he’d show up for Jen.

The first event, held at an Equinox fitness club, was a spectacular success. The goal: raise $10,000. The result: donations totaling $250,000, thanks to support from friends, family, and colleagues. An annual tradition was born.

Vern has participated in Cycle for Survival every year since, and participating became even more personal after Vern’s sister, Fran, died from cancer in 2010. He now rides in her honor and is grateful for the support Jen offered Fran.

“What Jen gave my sister is something I couldn’t give her. She gave her hope,” says Vern. “It’s a gift I can never repay. It’s because of her that I will ride in every Cycle for Survival event. I’m in.”

Jen died in 2011, but her spirit and lasting impact are felt at every Cycle for Survival event to this day.

JOIN CYCLE FOR SURVIVAL IN 2021

No matter where you live, you can be part of the movement to beat rare cancers. There are many ways you and your friends and family can get involved, including a socially distanced outdoor ride at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on May 1 and 2 and our first-ever virtual event experience on May 15. 100% of every dollar raised goes to rare cancer research led by MSK.

Register, donate, or learn more about cycleforsurvival.org »

Vern and his co-workers at Blackstone, a global investment firm where he is Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Strategic Partners, have helped to power Cycle for Survival into a national movement to beat rare cancers. When he joined the company in 2013, he assembled a group of 13 riders to start the first Blackstone corporate team, which raised $15,000. Word spread quickly. The following year, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation generously donated $25,000, helping a team of 18 riders raise $51,000. Today, more than 200 Blackstone employees ride every year and have raised over $1.5 million.

This year marks the 15th season of Cycle for Survival. The community has grown exponentially to 37,000 people who’ve raised over $260 million for rare cancer research, which has funded new techniques to analyze cancer, more clinical trials, and better treatment options for patients. It’s an opportunity for everyone to make a difference in the lives of people with cancer around the world. No contribution is too small. This year, people can take part in a socially distanced ride outdoors at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on May 1 and 2. They can also join friends, family, and colleagues in a virtual event on May 15 via the Equinox+ app, operated by Equinox, Cycle for Survival’s founding partner.

Since receiving that email from a friend in need, Vern has been devoted to this event — one that’s based on love, hope, and community. Every year, he brings his young daughter, Alanna, and can’t wait for the day that she can join him on a bike. “It is an event that is built on friendship. I’ve been able to grow support for Cycle for Survival because I am genuinely passionate about it,” says Vern. “With cancer, we can’t afford to wait.” •

MSK News Spring 2021
Cancer has a strong appetite for sugar. MSK scientists are learning how they can turn this hunger into an advantage, potentially tricking cancer cells into starving and destroying themselves. Read about this important work — and more — in our Spring issue.