Cooper Rides 500 Miles to Benefit Young Cancer Patients

Taikein Cooper is a man who knows all about second chances. At the age of 15 he was sidelined from a promising athletic career by heart disease. Over the past few years cycling provided Cooper a second chance at fitness. When he heard about the Great Cycle Challenge (GCC), a national program to benefit young cancer patients, he decided to sign up.

“I was an athlete all my life,” Cooper said. “I played baseball, basketball, football and soccer at Prince Edward High School, but I had to stop playing due to heart disease.”

Cooper had his first heart surgery at the UVA Children’s Hospital when he was 15. Today he manages his heart disease with a medicinal regimen, by limiting stress, and continuing to exercise. Cycling was the exercise Cooper decided to try. Late last year it led him to the Great Cycle Challenge.

“A friend told me about it,” he said. “Great Cycle Challenge is a national program that benefits children with cancer. In January I pledged to ride 500 miles and raise $500 during the month of June.”

GCC would be a challenge for Cooper whose longest ride previous to the challenge was 62 miles.

“For the Great Cycle Challenge I started in South Carolina and rode through North Carolina and then Virginia,” he noted. “I mapped out the ride so that I could ride with someone else and tried to find bike-friendly places.”

Over 30 days in June, Cooper did 27 rides that averaged 18.8 miles per day.

“I can hop on my bike and ride 20 miles, and it’s not an issue,” he said. “But after riding five or six days straight your body starts telling you to slow it down.”

For the GCC ride, Cooper acquired two local corporate sponsors, Real Living Cornerstone and Virginia Family Services.

“They bought me some bike jerseys and bike food,” Cooper said. “That was a huge asset.” Cooper turned to social media to find individual sponsors for his ride.

“I sent out an email telling about my vision and asking for help,” he said. “People were very receptive. Cooper’s original goal for the ride was $500; he ended up with over $1,000.

“I sent $600 to GCC, and then I started raising money for the UVA Children’s Hospital.” As a former patient of that hospital, Cooper knows the importance of local support. “I hope the money from the bike ride will help some of these kids,” he said.

In addition to cycling for a cause, Cooper believes in helping out in his own community. A champion of second chances, Cooper has been involved in the effort to renovate the old Mary Branch Community Center in Farmville.

“I was a student there many years ago,” he said. “That’s something very near and dear to my heart.”

Cooper also took politics to heart at an early age. “I got involved in politics in high school when Travis Harris ran for sheriff,” Cooper said. “He was my DARE teacher — he taught us to ‘say nope to dope,’ so when I heard he was running I started canvassing for him.”

Cooper’s early interest in the political process led to a continuing interest in local politics. Cooper currently serves as chair of the Prince Edward County Democratic Committee. Maintaining a connection with athletics is also important to Cooper. He currently assists with the mentoring program for the men’s basketball program at Longwood University.

Cooper’s day job is millennial engagement expert with Second Half Consulting, a firm he started
in Farmville. The implied sports reference is confirmed in the firm’s promo: “At Second Half Consulting we
specialize in winning the game of life: all games are won in the second half.” Taikein Cooper knows the value of life’s second chances. In stepping out to serve others, he’s found a game plan that works.

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