In High Gear

Marisa Wayne starts off the 6th annual Gritty Up fundraiser.

Marisa Wayne starts off the 6th annual Gritty Up fundraiser.

Marisa Wayne and some tireless cyclers set wheels in motion to raise funds in the fight against cancer. 

 Written by Constance Dunn

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Last month, Lido House in Newport Beach roped in over 200 guests for an early summer soiree to kickoff the 6th annual Gritty Up fundraiser in support of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (JWCF). Hosted by Duke’s youngest daughter, Marisa Wayne, and Matt Bourne, her business partner in Southern California spin studio chain GritCycle, the spirited occasion featured Duke Bourbon cocktails, dancing and the country tunes of Jerrod Neimann. Items ranging from an autographed baseball jersey to a Brett Eldredge guitar to a Punta Mita, Mexico vacation were put up for auction and powerful words were spoken not only by Marisa, but the Duke’s youngest son Ethan, too. A special highlight of the evening was the auction of a beautifully refurnished Grit blue Vespa—a donation from a GritCyle instructor whose father passed away from cancer—that raised $28,000 for the cause.

Pedal to the metal from then on, the following day revelers met back at the hotel for a festive, three-hour indoor cycle class. The goal: raise $400,000 for JWCF, which was formed by the Wayne family to continue Duke’s quest to fight cancer, even after his passing in 1979. When the wheels stopped, bringing the two-part event to a halt, the scales tipped at more than $436,000 raised, exceeding expectations and goals.

The highest-earning team, named Ride it Like You Stole it!, was led by David and Linda Wirta and raised more than $24,000, winning them an all-inclusive stay at a beachfront villa on the Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast. Coming in second, Karen Canaday Ditteaux’s team Ride Like the Winded raised nearly $20,000.

To date, Gritty Up has raised over $1.6 million for the JWCF. The funds, says its Director of Fundraising Greg Graber, are used “to support John Wayne Cancer Foundation’s mission to fight cancer with courage, strength and grit through research, education, awareness and support, in order to improve patients’ outcomes and save lives.” It’s a noble goal as the good deeds of the cancer research organization are many. In addition to the trail-blazing John Wayne Cancer Institute and the John Wayne Alumni Fellows, who are graduates of the institute’s Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program, JWCF initiatives include Block the Blaze, a sun-cancer education program that has reached nearly 400,000 youth. 

Featuring as much personality as John Wayne filling a room, the high-energy event generated a level of commitment that the Hollywood icon knew well. One could always depend on Duke to get it in gear for a good cause—one that would no doubt make him proud.

Matt Bourne, one of the founders of GritCycle, rests on a 2007 Vespa in Grit blue, an auction item at this year’s record-breaking Gritty Up event kindly donated by instructor Leigh and her husband Eric Beach.

Matt Bourne, one of the founders of GritCycle, rests on a 2007 Vespa in Grit blue, an auction item at this year’s record-breaking Gritty Up event kindly donated by instructor Leigh and her husband Eric Beach.

Energetic choreography and enthusiasm from the GritCycle instructors kept riders in motion during a three-hour cycle class to raise funds for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.

Energetic choreography and enthusiasm from the GritCycle instructors kept riders in motion during a three-hour cycle class to raise funds for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.

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Photographs courtesy of Griffin Conway