More than 14 years later, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in West Bloomfield is still going strong. In addition, a team of riders in the annual Make-A-Wish 3-day bicycle tour has grown from 14 in 1999 to 150 this year.
Team Alex has raised more than $1,750,000 for the charity that granted Alex's last wish.
Bill and Susie Graham aren't quite sure why their daughter's legacy has become so tied to bicycling, but the connection continues with Miles4Alex, part of the third annual Birmingham Bike Festival on August 25. The event will support programs at Beaumont Children’s Hospital, where Alex received her care, and Detroit2Nepal Foundation, which funds health and educational projects for children in Nepal.
Bill Graham recalls that Alex learned how to ride a bike at age 4. "She taught herself," he said. And even after Alex lost a leg to bone cancer, "she never let that stop her. She went bike riding on a tandem," Susie Graham added.
Dr. Richard Keidan, a Beaumont Hospital oncologist, organized Miles4Alex and rides as a member of Team Alex as well.
“Alex Graham was a courageous young woman who lost her leg and ultimately her life to cancer,” says Dr. Keidan. “Her strength and her ability to put other’s needs ahead of her own is her legacy."
PSA, naming share Alex's legacy
Alex's spirit is evident in her last wish, which was to create a public service announcement that encourages people to smile at kids who have cancer and others who may look different. At her funeral, everyone was asked to do a good deed in her name, as a memorial.
Over the years, Alex has also been remembered through 10 children named after her in the Jewish tradition, Susie Graham said.
"The oldest child named after Alex just had a bar mitzvah. Her legacy just keeps going on and on," she said. "People ask, is this tough for you? No, it's not. My daughter has been gone for almost 15 years, and her memory is alive as ever."
The first $25,000 raised during Miles4Alex will be matched by the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Charles Main, M.D., one of Alex’s doctors at Beaumont, serves as grand marshal for the event.
To register for the ride, or to donate, go to crowdrise.com/miles4alex. To learn more about Alex and her legacy, visit alexswish.com.