Maryland man stops in Macon during bike ride to raise adolescent melanoma awareness

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Going to college is a big milestone in every student’s life and an even prouder moment for their parents. A Maryland father will not get to see his daughter graduate because she died last year from skin cancer. He is now bicycling across the southeast to raise awareness of this growing disease.

Every road traveled is one mile closer to Rocky Wagonhurst’s goal.

"Take her to college, just like every other freshman dad,” Wagonhurst said.

Wagonhurst is riding with his daughter Claire. She was diagnosed with melanoma when she was 14 years old.

"We think what caused it was some kind of hormonal change when she went through puberty and it made the mole change,” he said.

Claire battled cancer for three years. Her father says it eventually moved to her brain. Claire died last October during her senior year of high school, just days after she learned she was accepted to Georgia Southern University and the University of Alabama to study interior design.

"It’s pretty rare, but it’s something that’s becoming less rare,” Wagonhurst said.

That is why he is taking the 630 mile bicycle ride from Charleston, South Carolina to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Wagonhurst says Claire wanted to own an interior design business in Charleston and he promised to go to a football game with her in Alabama.

He stopped in Macon on Monday. It marked the half-way point on his journey to raise awareness of adolescent melanoma.

"It was so hard losing her and we just don’t want anybody else to have to go through this,” Wagonhurst said.

Rocky is keeping Claire’s memory alive with every person he meets along the way.

"Just really touched by obviously the tribute and what he’s trying to do and the awareness he’s trying to raise,” Justin Brown with Iconic Adventures said. Brown is traveling with Wagonhurst along the journey.

He may be riding solo, but the father says he is not alone.

"You might see me coming down the hill…when it goes there I feel like I’m flying down with her,” Wagonhurst said. “And when I’m going up the hill I feel like she’s pushing me a little bit or is at the top saying ‘C’mon dad.’"

His daughter’s spirit is always with him.

“We just want to keep her moving with us. We don’t want to leave her behind,” he said.

As he rides to finish Claire’s journey to college.

Wagonhurst is traveling another 315 miles over the next five days. He is also keeping his promise to Claire. The last stop is Saturday in Tuscaloosa so the family can watch the Alabama and Ole Miss game.

He is also planning to ride this same journey in four years to commemorate the year Claire would have graduated from college. After that he plans to open an interior design store in Charleston for recent graduates to start their own business.

Click here to learn more about Wagonhurst’s journey and click here to learn more about the Claire Marie Foundation.