Workers to celebrate unicycle trek for cancer research

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FARMINGTON — Restaurant employees are planning a celebration to support a former co-worker’s 400-plus-mile trek on a unicycle to raise money for melanoma cancer research

Tristan Bates, 22, of Harmony, a recent graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington, started a unicycle ride on Sunday along Route 2 from Burlington,Vt., to the Quoddy Head Light in Machias. He is expected to arrive at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell on Friday at 5 p.m., said shift leader Ami-Lyn Robinson.

The public is invited to join the festivities that will include unicycle jousting, chicken-suited employees and others dancing with pink bucket hats. Weather permitting, activities will be held outside. There will be a raffle that includes a candle/soap basket and a night at Kawanhee Inn in Weld as prizes and a variety of baked goods given out for donations to melanoma research, said KFC Manager Aaron Tourtelotte.

Bates, who worked at the local KFC while going to school, and his brother Arian are attempting to tackle 40 to 50 miles a day on the 10-day uni-thon. Arian is riding a tandem bike with their gear.

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The pair have a history of raising money for cancer research, Tourtelotte said. After losing a grandfather to lung cancer five years ago, Bates became involved in walk-a-thons and cancer fundraising.

His father was diagnosed with melanoma last year causing Bates to consider a uni-thon, “One Wheel. One Cure,” to raise funds. He was planning the trek when his father, at age 52, died in February from the disease leaving 10 children, ages 2 to 27, Tourtelotte said.

Bates who worked over two years at KFC/Taco Bell is “absolutely fantastic,” Tourtelotte said.

“As a person, he’s awesome, as an employee, he’s almost as perfect as you can get,” he said of the young man who has adopted his father’s community mindedness.

Riding a unicycle he calls “Black Betty Beast Bates,” Bates is blogging through his trek and more information is available on his website, www.onewheel-onecure.com.

Bates received a degree in secondary education mathematics in May.

His journey can also be followed on Twitter or Facebook.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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