'20 grad going the extra mile(s) for charity bike ride

In the spring semester, senior Tyler Barker launched a GoFundMe fund-raiser to help his friend, Darnell Cooley, the morning cook in Heidelberg’s dining hall, who is battling cancer. He set out with a goal of $15,000; his “Dollars for Darnell” campaign raised more than $7,000.

Now, Tyler going the extra mile – or 450 miles, to be exact – on a charity bike ride to further support cancer research, his warrior friend, Darnell, and other cancer survivors. In September, Tyler will participate in the four-day Challenge to Conquer Cancer (C3), a four-day ride from Virginia to South Carolina. With any luck, Darnell and his wife, Charissa, will be there at the finish line to cheer him on.

The Challenge to Conquer Cancer supports three research foundations: Prisma Health, the Cancer Association of Anderson and the Patrick Dempsey Center for Hope and Healing. Tyler learned about the annual ride from ‘Berg alum and Berg Business Board member Eduardo Hernando, ‘89, a veteran of charity bike rides. The two connected at Heidelberg while Tyler was a business administration major and student-athlete prior to his graduation in May.

“Eduardo introduced me to this organization, and I thought, ‘Hey, this will not only be a tremendous journey, but it would be a great way to give back to those who have been affected by cancer, like Darnell and his family,’” Tyler says. “We ride as a tribute to those who are battling and who have battled cancer. I’m riding for Darnell and his family.”

And he’ll be ready when September 21-24 rolls around, although this year’s ride was shortened in number of days and distance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s been training twice weekly, riding 30-40 miles per training session. “Some weekends, I’ll travel somewhere beautiful in Ohio and ride as well,” he explains. 

Tyler’s goal is to raise $5,250 for C3. As part of the annual ride, the C3 organizers arrange for the warriors – cancer survivors whom the ride supports – to be at the final destination to cheer on the cyclists. If his doctor allows him to make the trip, Darnell looks forward to giving Tyler “a big brotherly hug” when he crosses the finish line.

That hug would be in honor of their friendship and Tyler’s selfless efforts to support and encourage Darnell in his battle with prostate and rectal cancer.

“I can’t believe he is doing this for me,” Darnell said. “Tyler is the most amazing young man I’ve known. We need more young people in the world like him. He has a heart of gold and is my guardian angel.”

Today, Darnell reports he is “hanging in there.”

“I’m sick a lot but I am going to still keep going,” he says. “I am going to beat this with all I have. It is not going to beat me.”

Visit Tyler’s GoFundMe page to watch a video about his effort, learn more about the C3 organization and make a gift toward his goal.

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