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The man who biked against leukemia

In one life, several lives are lived. And in Juan Sellers' case, at least there are two: one as a bank employee and the owner of a house and two cars, and the other as a retiree with only one property, his bicycle, which is entirely dedicated to solidarity. His trips of thousands of kilometers on two wheels and his solid commitment in the fight against leukemia have made him collect 4,000 euros and win the prize “The cause of the month” of the social crowdfunding platform and Obra Social "la Caixa", which adds 500 euros to the cause that has managed to mobilize more people. Next destination: Moscow.

hen I retired I made a family council with my wife and my children. We agreed that we would sell the house and the cars, which was the only thing we had and that, from then on, I would dedicate myself to what I like, which is to travel and to help others a little bit. My children know that they will not inherit anything, but they are happy”, says Juan a few months after undertaking his next supportive challenge: “the ASCOL 4,000″ or, what is the same, pedaling the 4,000 kilometers that separate his home in Salamanca from Moscow to give visibility to leukemia. One kilometer for each euro, he has already managed to earn for this association.

“I’ll start on June 1st. I travel alone and with very little luggage: a change of clothes and a toilet bag. In the jersey I have written the names of 35 patients: Roberto, Thomas, Germán… I also assign their names to each daily stage of 120 km”, explains Juan, excited. “I will stop to take a picture of myself at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the remains of the Berlin Wall, which I will send along with some texts. And they will send me a daily video. When you meet the patients, you can only give everything for them”.

And, of course, he gives everything. At 63, Juan trains every day at 7 o’clock, does not stop mobilizing people and resources, and always ends up putting money of his own pocket. In addition, he does not do tourism in the places he visits because he only thinks about reaching his goal, and he assures that he does not spend “not even a dime. I sleep in the house of the people, the police, the firemen, the 112. Despite having been in more than 20 countries, I have no idea of ​​languages, but I manage to ask for a glass of water. People see me alone with my grandad look, and at the end I have dinner, breakfast and I sleep there. I always write down their names and data, to come back one day with my wife to thank them or to name them in a book where I tell the experience”, he says. “But I have to dedicate more time to those people who help me, like the old couple of Kosovo, really poor, who gave me 6 fried eggs for dinner. I could not stop hugging them”.

From his experience he claims to have learned to ask for support: “Before, I did not know how to do it well and people said ‘yes, nice try’. But now I take photos with Vicente del Bosque; Mújica, the Uruguayan president, helps me a lot (half of the money comes from there); I receive the mayor or the rector of the University of Salamanca … And I say: Wow!’. And I ask for the money face to face, I take it in cash and then I already deposit it with my card in because that’s the easiest way for most people. And I also know that if you ask for a euro, it is much easier for you to get it than if you ask for 2 or 3, they never find them in their pockets…”. Behind the numbers there is a great amount of effort and dedication.

Although not everything is about money. “Now I’m very excited about capturing bone marrow donors. In this case the money is totally secondary; what is needed are marrow donations. I distribute some scarves and some magnets with a phone so that people know what it is. Because people think that they puncture you in the spine and that you have to be under anesthesia and get hospitalized, when in fact it is as easy as donating blood. Notice that we Spaniards are the ones who donate the most in everything except marrow. That’s why we are currently sourcing from Germany. The sum of the fear of the donation us, that those over 40 can no longer donate, and that not always the process works… real donations end up being few. But I think that if I manage to reach 200 people and that 10 reach a good port … For saving 10 lives is amazing “.

In addition to his cycling, Juan Sellers is a volunteer in hospitals, “only on Fridays and Saturdays”, and he gives talks where they ask him, telling his experiences. “But I’m not a hero, ok? The right circumstances have been given for me to take this forward: I have good health, a woman who allows me everything and I do not need the money because I have a small rental house and with my pension is enough. For my next challenge (for which one can already donate) I will go to London to raise 3,000 euros to fight against Parkinson’s. I live on vacation and, in the process, I help people. I’m a happy man”.

Text: Ana Portolés
Photograph: Bárbara Lanzat

You can read more stories like this on ALMA, the social social media, a digital space devoted to the social field, which brings a new look at the present and the future of society, from an optimistic and diverse point of view, and from all the initiatives that “la Caixa” Foundation promote.