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Dolphins Challenge Cancer XIV Has Record-Breaking Participation and Fundraising

A total of 6,702 attendees raised more than $12 million in support of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, South Florida’s only NCI-designated cancer center, in the NFL’s No. 1 fundraising event.

For South Florida cancer survivors, family members and friends, the 14th annual Dolphins Challenge Cancer (DCC XIV) Feb. 24 at Hard Rock Stadium was a time to remember loved ones, celebrate personal victories and look forward to the future with hope.

Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., fourth from left, and fellow riders after completing the 99-mile Jason Taylor ride at DCC XIV.

“We could not ask for a better teammate than the Miami Dolphins,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “Their dedication to supporting cancer research at Sylvester is unparalleled. Year after year, the funds that are raised by the DCC allow Sylvester to recruit and retain some of the world’s best minds in cancer research and provide them with the resources needed to make innovative discoveries and establish life-saving treatments, bringing us one step closer to a world without cancer.”

One Team, One Fight

With a theme of “One Team, One Fight,” DCC XIV broke last year’s record for the number of participants and surpassed the $10.5 million raised for cancer research in 2023. The final tally was 6,702 participants and more than $12 million was raised for Sylvester, fulfilling the program’s overall $75 million commitment.

The Dolphins-led year-round initiative is the NFL’s largest fundraising event, with 100% of the donations going to Sylvester. 

“We are two years ahead of schedule on our commitment to raise $75 million,” said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

The U hand sign was a preferred mode of celebration at DCC XIV.

Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said the DCC is an inspiring event that shows the community’s resolve to fight cancer, and many Dolphin players—past and present—took part.

DCC XIV included four bike rides honoring Miami Dolphins players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with lengths corresponding to their jerseys: the 13-mile Dan Marino ride presented by Aetna, the 39-mile Larry Csonka ride presented by Robins and Morton, the 54-mile Zach Thomas ride and the 99-mile Jason Taylor ride, which Dr. Nimer, also the Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and executive dean for research at the Miller School, completed while serving as captain of Team Hurricanes Sylvester.

The DCC XIV riders began and ended their journey at the Miami International Autodrome racetrack’s start/finish line, with friends and family members showing their support at AutoNation’s Mad Dog Cheer Zone.

The 5K walk/race presented by Amazon included part of the track for the Formula 1 Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix and a climb to the third level of Hard Rock Stadium. There were also plenty of vendors, food, drink and fun activities in the Miami International Autodrome area, along with Kids Zone activities for the family and an exciting concert by 10-time Grammy Award winner Chaka Khan.

A Life-Saving Partnership

Sylvester Board of Governors Chair Jayne Malfitano thanked the Dolphins team for its support, noting that the strong relationship is leading to discoveries that will result in the best care for cancer patients and survivors. Rudy Fernandez, executive vice president of University of Miami operations and chief of staff, said the fight against cancer is truly a team effort.

“Not a day goes by without someone in our community reaching out to Sylvester,” he added.

A biking team celebrates at the finish line of DCC XIV.
A biking team celebrates the completion of their ride at DCC XIV.

U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL-25), a breast cancer survivor, emphasized her commitment to winning the fight against cancer.

“As survivors, we think about cancer every day,” she said. “That’s why it is so important to invest in vital research and prevention, so we can have more survivors, enjoy more birthdays and save more lives.”

One of those many Sylvester survivors was Irene Nowell, who won her battle against lung cancer in 2012.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” she said.

But others were not as fortunate. Tate Dumler lost his father, Doug, to cancer in 2020, and breast cancer has claimed several of Ashley Dumler’s friends.

Wearing pink tutus, Adria Atkins walked the 5K event with half a dozen family members to honor her sister, Daisy Atkins, a Sylvester administrator and active DCC participant whose life was claimed by breast cancer.

“We are here to remember her and support Sylvester’s life-saving research,” she said. 

Cancer Survivorship Programs

Along with groundbreaking research and treatments, DCC XIV also supports Sylvester’s innovative survivorship programs. Throughout the day, hundreds of survivors like Lynette Hickenbottom “rang the bell” at the Living Proof display to symbolize Sylvester’s life-saving care.

Later in the day, survivorship took center stage as Tracy E. Crane, Ph.D., RDN, co-lead of the Cancer Control Program and director of lifestyle medicine, prevention and digital health at Sylvester, welcomed more than 100 participants in Sylvester’s “Believe in You” program.

Runners and walkers at the start of the DCC XIV 5K.
And they’re off! Runners break from the starting line at the DCC XIV 5K.

“This program is close to my heart,” added Paola Rossi, M.D., M.S., Sylvester’s clinical program director for lifestyle medicine. “We had a vision for our survivors, and you are making it happen.”

Among the DCC XIV participants were dozens of first responders who walked the 5K in full gear after attending the 2024 International Firefighter Cancer Symposium, a February 22-23 conference organized by Sylvester’s Firefighter Cancer Initiative (FCI) team.

Two-time cancer survivor David Perez, a firefighter from Collier County, was joined on stage by a dozen other first responders who presented a $2,500 check, reflecting Sylvester’s national leadership in building awareness and providing guidance on reducing the risk of deadly cancers. Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director, community outreach and engagement at Sylvester and the John K. and Judy H. Schulte Senior Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, thanked the firefighters for their generosity.

Supporting the DCC

Major contributors to the success of DCC XIV included the Lennar Corporation, The Pap Corps and AutoNation, all of which made generous donations. Participants who surpassed a fundraising goal of $3,000 took part in the Heavy Hitter experience presented by Berkowitz Pollack Brant & Provenance Wealth Advisors. At the same time, corporate teams were hosted in the Corporate Team Village, presented by Paycor. The Lennar Foundation, a legacy partner, is one of the event’s largest organizational donors, and The Harcourt M. and Virginia W. Sylvester Foundation presented the Living Proof Program.

Tags: DCC, DCC XIV, Dr. Stephen D. Nimer, philanthropy, Sylverster Comprehensive Cancer Center