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Kelly Leach ’90

A photo of Kelly Leach '90

Founder of Team Pedaling Sunshine, participants in Cycle for Survival

Education: Duke University, psychology, with a teaching certificate in elementary education; Tuck School of Business, MBA

What I’m Doing Now: I was diagnosed with a rare cancer — Ewing sarcoma — during the summer of 2014. It was totally out of the blue; I was training for a marathon and had two small children at home. I went through 12 months of chemotherapy and eight weeks of radiation. Fortunately, the standard of care worked for me and after a few treatments, my tumors were gone. I was extremely lucky. During chemo, I was lying in bed recovering and clicking through Facebook when I came across someone locally who had donated to Cycle for Survival, a nonprofit that funds rare cancer research. I learned that it was an affiliate of Memorial Sloan Kettering, where I was being treated. I also learned that it was started by Jennifer Goodman Linn, who was in my sorority in college, grew up in Livingston, and whose mother was a teacher at the elementary school I attended in Summit. Worlds collided. It became clear to me that starting my own Cycle for Survival team was what I was going to do when my treatments were done. In 2015, I launched Team Pedaling Sunshine — named after the song “You Are My Sunshine,” which I sang to my two boys every night. In the last eight years, more than 150 riders have participated with Team Pedaling Sunshine in cities across the country and virtually.  We've raised over $3 million, every penny of which has supported rare cancer research, making a difference to cancer patients and their families around the world. We’ve made some pretty big strides. 

How KPS Has Supported Me: My mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was a junior. She passed away in 1992, two years after I graduated. The KPS community had our back during every step of her cancer journey. I was one of four children, and so many families delivered food to our house. When she died, my first phone calls were to my friends from KPS, who all knew her. My classmates are still the most important friends I have. Many have been members of Team Pedaling Sunshine, some have served as captains, and some just show up to the rides to demonstrate their support. I see them in every city I ride in — it’s like a mini-reunion. I couldn’t have done this without a lot of those women. Despite my mother's cancer battle while I was at Kent Place, there was never a shadow cast over my time at the school. I was always happily busy, involved in everything — I sang with the Chamber Singers and played tennis in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Some days I was there from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. I loved every minute of it — being at the school, with my teachers, and my friends. It was such a positive six years.

Advice for My KPS Sisters: Hold your friends tight. I can’t imagine being a student today and living with the power and stress of technology. It’s a completely different world. But what all KPS students have in common is the amazing network of women with whom they go to school. The networks you build are way more important than anything else. Your classmates and friends will help you through life.