Moving forward in place. The Tour de Pier keeps growing
by Mark McDermott
A little more than a decade ago, Jon Hirshberg returned to an alumni program at Harvard Business School. He’d followed in his father Ron’s footsteps and was CEO of a successful sporting equipment and design company, JR286, that was named in honor of him and his dad and their off-shore racing boat, the Revenge 286. After his father’s death in 1997, of pancreatic cancer, Hirshberg and his step-sister, Lisa Manheim, launched a foundation to fight the disease and founded a 5k called the LA Cancer Challenge to help fundraise. But at Harvard, a professor encouraged Hirshberg to engage in philanthropy in the place he actually lived, Manhattan Beach.
Hirshberg went home and tried to imagine something he could do that wasn’t already happening locally.
“There’s a lot of golf tournaments, a lot of 5k and 10k runs, and auctions,” Hirshberg said. “So I heard about an indoor spin event, and I thought, ‘Wow, how awesome would it be if we started to take this indoor spin event outside?’ So my idea was to do something different, to try to bring an idea that was different than the norm. And I knew that a place like Manhattan Beach which is just special in itself, with the pier and everything around it…could be the perfect place to try to make make it happen. I think we succeeded.”
The idea came to fruition right on the Manhattan Beach Pier. What started in 2012 with 171 bikes and 600 riders raising $239,000 by its tenth year had grown to 375 bikes and over 1500 riders raising $1.5 million. All totaled, the event has raised more than $10.5 million. The Tour de Pier benefits three nonprofit cancer organizations dedicated to helping save lives and providing support services for patients and families: Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research; Cancer Support Community South Bay and the Uncle Kory Foundation for Brain Cancer Research.
“It’s really incredible, and I want to pinch myself sometimes when I think about all the different moving parts that go into making this event so successful,” said Lisa Manheim, a Tour de Pier co-founder. “In the end, every moving part has somebody behind it who is incredibly passionate and giving — doing something like this almost purely with volunteers is astounding…This is grassroots at its finest, and it’s three organizations all working in harmony to make it happen.”
The event has become known for its celebrity participants, including the late great Tommy Lasorda, the legendary LA Dodgers manager. This year’s celebrity quotient includes LA Charger football player Michael Davis, soccer great Alexi Lalas, actress Peyton Elizabeth Leet, and former USC football star Matt Leinert.
“We always say, ‘We can’t possibly top this year,’ and then we think, ‘How can we top this year?’ It’s about the energy of people that are there, from the riders to the instructors and everybody who comes to support it,” Manheim said. “Everyone who is there, from a volunteer to an instructor to a rider, just wants to be there, and it’s such an incredible combination of emotion, passion, loss, and fighting and dancing and celebrating and everything in between.”
The 11th Annual Tour de Pier takes place May 21. See TourDePier.com for more information.