The fifth annual Debbie Gabel Memorial Ride took place Saturday. About 170 riders on 130 motorcycles traveled more than 140 miles, starting in Valley City and crossing into four counties, to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and to raise money for research and the care of terminally ill patients.
The ride ended in Valley City and was followed by a silent auction, a raffle for a Polaris Ranger and a street dance, all in the name of the organizer's beloved wife, whom he lost to ovarian cancer.
Debbie and Rocky Gabel were high school sweethearts who married and spent 33 years raising a family. Debbie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005 and died in 2009.
"I was devastated," said Rocky.
During her last months, Hospice of the Red River Valley contributed to Debbie's care. After her death, Rocky wanted to do something to memorialize his wife. The Debbie Gabel Memorial Ride is a way for Rocky to do that while raising money for hospice and other charities.
"I wanted to keep Debbie's name out there, I didn't want people to forget her name," said Rocky.
Generally, the Thundering Saints motorcycle club donates about $15,000 a year to Hospice of the Red River Valley and another several thousand dollars to the Relay For Life.
But Rocky wants the ride to serve another purpose, he hopes to raise awareness of a blood test that can help diagnose ovarian cancer in women. The test, called CA-125, can detect the presence of elevated protein levels in the blood, and indication of ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer produces few symptoms in its early stages and often goes undetected until it spreads to other organs, according to the Mayo Clinic.
While the test is not recommended as a screening test, used in combination with other tests it can be used to test women with a high chance of developing ovarian cancer. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer or women with certain DNA traits are considered at high risk.
Rocky believes, if he can help save even one woman, his work with Thundering Saints would be worth all the time and effort.