The 2015 Bike, Barbecue and Band ride was a success……..
The 2015 Bike, Barbecue and Band ride was a success……..
The 2014 Pedaling for Kids Across-the-State (ATS) trip was another story for the ages – full of great adventure, tests of persistence and endurance, and again lots of fun times and laughter from start to finish. The group committed early to training in the months leading up to the trip and when the weekend arrived, the PFK peloton was in shape and ready.
This was the third successful trip across Georgia for Jay Parker, Rhonda Eysel, high school junior and triathlete Reames Clark, and Jack Sherrer. Veteran cyclist Mike Moore served as Road Captain and pulled the peloton from the front the majority of the 250-plus miles. Chester Fort was our other veteran whose strong riding and enthusiasm continued to motivate and encourage the group.
The trip was again started off right with Dr. Jimmy Elder of First Baptist Church praying for us in our classic meeting place in the parking lot of the Macon Road K-Mart. What a great way to start off our ride every year; Dr. Elder’s presence has become one of the traditions we look forward to and depend on with each ATS. And the prayers again helped us; we had only two small mishaps and all three riders were back up and continued cycling.
The new riders this year were fantastic. They had all ridden with the peloton for months and had learned how to work and cycle safely together. Mike Campos, CJ Baker, Jackie Aasand, Erin Golden, Tripp Blankenship, Joie Musselman, Lori Hughes, Tonya Mitchum, and Craig Boaz – in addition to Mike Moore and Chester Fort – were all successful in their first attempt at the ATS.
The across-the-state riders stuck with the same route planned out by veteran rider and PFK-loyalist Kenny Hall three years ago. We again launched from Robinson Farms in Marion County and finished the first – and the most difficult – of the three days in Hawkinsville. Jay “Hawkeye” Parker and wife Katie were in charge of our parking lot cookout our first night and it was a blast. They served great chips, dips, burgers, dogs and drinks. Entertainment that night included a skit by actresses Lori Hughes and Katie Parker about the washing of bike garments and a missing pair of underwear. It was absolutely hilarious. We were sure that the cookout in the parking lot was the first cookout of its kind ever held in the Hawkinsville Best Western’s parking lot. We just hope they let us make future reservations with them…
Saturday carried us out of Hawkinsville and two-thirds across the state to Vidalia. We were fortunate to have had good weather and favorable winds for the most part. We again stayed in our dependable Hampton Inn in Vidalia. We had dinner at J&B’s Rare2Welldone Steakhouse and we could not have been treated better. Owner Belinda Lacklin made sure we had great service and our own “corral” and even made a sizeable donation to the Pedaling for Kids charity before we left. Thanks Belinda for everything! The highlight of the night was the winning of crystal awards by both Rhonda Eysel and Jay Parker as the highest money-raisers for the ride – both for the second year in a row.
The third day is usually our most fun day and this year was no exception. The day is not only fun because we are closing in on our goal of making it across the state, but the cycling is easier: the terrain is more flat and we generally have a tailwind. The peloton this year often hit and maintained speeds in the low-20 mph range during parts of the day. This year the ATS Ride Honoree was Lori Hughes. Husband Scott had given her her first road bike the previous Christmas and she had committed to getting in shape and had prepared all season for the trip. There was no question we all wanted her as our honored ride leader.
We were again met at the city limits of Savannah by Savannah police officers and received an escort all the way to our hotel. As has become our tradition our Ride Honoree leads the peloton behind the police car into the city to the cheers of millions of Savannah residents. Although Lori was absolutely up to the task she initially didn’t realize the escort was 16 miles, so had to eventually slow the pace so she and the peloton could survive the escort! It was again a tremendously great feeling to pull in to Riverstreet and hear the thunderous roar of the crowd, the snapping of photographs, and the popping of champagne corks.
This year we stayed at The Mansion at Forsythe Park and the accommodations were fantastic. We had drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the Mansion’s bar before being chauffeured to Fiddlers for dinner.
A special thanks to our massage therapist Alicia Blackwell of Waverly Hall. She helped keep our aching bodies on our bikes the entire trip.
And thanks to our wonderful and patient SAGs: Loretta Fort and Carrie Blankenship and to SAG Leader and Photographer Extraordinaire Katie Parker – all of whom kept us from getting run over for three days. We love you!
Thanks to everyone for the super-successful 2014 ATS. There are just too many funny things and great memories to list here … but thanks. Thanks to each of you for making it so great.
We had not arrived in Savannah for more than an hour before we had already begun to plan and to look forward to next year’s 2015 ATS ride!
We first learned about Ty from one of our long-term friends Libby Campos. Libby is a special-education teacher at Northside High School here in Columbus, Georgia and Ty was one of her students. She had applied for help previously for other students in her class but was unsure if we could help Ty and his parents. She wanted to let us know Ty’s mom Amy had embarked on a fund-raiser to hopefully raise enough money to purchase a wheelchair-accessible van for Ty but Libby knew we were still a relatively new charity and were limited in funds. Nonetheless, Libby – never quit or give up on a challenge – wanted Pedaling for Kids to know about Ty.
Ty was a typical healthy child until the age of 10. He was a gregarious, hard-charging, always-smiling kid who loved sports. He especially loved soccer. But then something happened. Something just wasn’t right. After months of testing doctors informed Amy that Ty had Juvenile Huntington’s Chorea. Huntington’s Chorea (HC) is a neurodegenerative genetic disease that is quite rare – occurring in only 7 of 100,000 people. HC typically manifests its symptoms in middle-aged adults between the ages of 35 -45 years of age. Huntington’s is a devastating disease with no cure. Those with HC end up with very rigid spastic movements, are wheelchair bound, and need full-time care. The life expectancy in those diagnosed with HC averages 20 years from the time of diagnosis. Juvenile Huntington’s Chorea is even more rare than the typical HC; only 6 percent of HC occur before the age of 21. Juvenile HC has a more rapidly progressive deterioration than the Huntington’s starting in middle age.
Ty’s mother and stepfather Scott contacted Ty’s biological father after Ty was diagnosed with Juvenile Huntington’s to give him the terrible news. Ironically, Ty’s biological father had just been diagnosed with the adult form.
We first met Ty and his family in January of 2014. Ty was now 17 years old and his Juvenile Huntington’s had already taken a devastating toll on him. He was wheelchair-bound and had a gastric feeding tube in place because of his inability to swallow. Although 5 feet tall, Ty weighed only 90 pounds. His mother Amy had long since put her career as a respiratory therapist on hold to care for Ty full-time. Libby wanted us to make sure we met Ty and his family; she told us we wouldn’t believe how positive and wonderful they were. And she was absolutely right.
Our Board of Directors met immediately to see if we could help. Our community interaction up to that point had certainly been on a smaller scale financially. Scott, Amy, Ty and his younger brother Robert were meeting with our Board in less than a week – and we were blown away. We were not only amazed and inspired by their love and commitment to each other, but were moved by their ability to find positivity in all they encountered. Amy, weighing only 130 pounds herself, was struggling in transporting Ty. She not only had to fold Ty’s wheelchair to put it in their present vehicle, but she also had to physically lift Ty to put him in a car seat. It was not only difficult for Amy to get Ty into a car seat and secure him, but the entire process was a very painful one for Ty as he had become very rigid with the disease progression. It had become so painful to get Ty out of his wheelchair for the ride that Amy had taken on the project of raising money for a wheelchair-accessible conversion van on her own.
After our meeting with Ty and his family, our Board promptly voted unanimously to participate. We decided – with Scott and Amy’s consent – Pedaling for Kids would spend a larger amount of money in order to secure a newer, lower-mileage van. Although the amount to be spent was by far our largest commitment to date, we felt our donors and supporters would wholeheartedly approve how their money was allocated.
Within two weeks Ty and family had a beautiful, low mileage van that allowed Amy to load Ty – while still in his wheelchair – into the conversion van via the back door of the van. No more painful rides for Ty! And no more lifting and risking injury for Amy…
Very sadly, we lost Ty March 4, 2014. This incredible family however never ceased to be thankful and positive. And thru the loss, it was Amy and Scott who reminded the rest of their family and friends to rejoice in the happiness that Ty brought to them and to everyone else with whom Ty had ever met…
Cute Ethan loves school and loves his teachers at Little Learners! Pedaling for Kids provided an iPad to help Ethan with his autism. Again, PFKs friend and consultant Susan Elder, helped us select the appropriate iPad applications to help facilitate Ethan’s communication skills and other aspects of his education at Little Learners. His parents and teachers report his iPad has had a tremendous impact in his development.
Wow. Talk about a support team. This kid’s got it! The day we met Hunter he had an entourage of family members that filled the lobby of the building – it was standing room only! It was great to see an extended family so happy and so supportive of their family member.
Hunter has Cerebral Palsy and Growth Motor Delay and Pedaling for Kids was thrilled to be able to provide items for the Culverson home to make things a little more easy for Hunter and his parents. And Hunter, despite it being late in the afternoon, was a sweet and patient little guy with all of the folks wanting to talk to him, hug and kiss on him, and take his photo a hundred times.
We look forward to watching Hunter grow up into a fine young man and hope we can continue to be a part of his life…
Will is one special guy. We found out about Will last year when school administrators felt he couldn’t stay in regular classrooms. Will was born with Nager Syndrome and one of the issues he has had to deal with since birth is the absence of thumbs. And now he could not keep up in the classroom because he was being slowed down too much by not having the full, rapid use of all ten fingers.
We at Pedaling for Kids are thankful we were able to provide Will an iPad. Once again, our trusted friend and consultant Susan Elder, evaluated Will and the situation and chose the perfect iPad applications to help him. Not only is Will doing great in school, but his essay “Laws of Life” was recently chosen as one of the top essays in the entire school system! As an even greater honor, Will was then asked to read it to the Muscogee County School Board. Here is part of an email one of our Board Members, Rhonda Eysel, sent me when she heard the news about Will’s recent honor. Her words could not summarize better all of our feelings about Will:
“I’m so touched and moved by his bright spirit and willingness to persevere despite how many odds are stacked against him. What a blessing he is and I have to believe God is using him in ways one can only imagine. And he wrote it on the iPad PFK gave him!”
To better share the spirit of Will we have included a special section committed just to him. I encourage everyone to first read his essay on PowerPoint, then watch the video of Will’s presentation to the School Board. Will is one special guy.