Most people have that one trip they look forward to every year. Some go to warm beaches in Mexico to escape the cold of winter. Some meet family and friends on a cruise ship for entertainment and exploration. Others head out in the wilderness for an adventure with Mother Nature. For me, I fly to Chicago to visit my cousins Brandon, Audrey, Indiana, and Lulu, and join dozens of FA patients, family, and friends at RideAtaxia!
This year's ride had 325 riders taking over Channahon, IL along 1, 4, 12, 27 or 50-mile routes! All the cyclists stretched and prepped in the morning before joining Kyle Bryant's "Cure FA!" chant to start the ride. The local police were extremely friendly as they helped stop traffic at key intersections and kept riders safe on the roads. It was an overcast July morning, with occasional light rain during the ride, but the major downpour held off for the entire event. Personally, I am not a fan of extreme summer heat, humidity, and direct sunlight – the cool overcast weather this year was MUCH preferred to the 90+ degree, burning sun we rode in last year! Furthermore, I was able to keep a strong pace on my rented Catrike for all 27 miles! The only trouble to the whole day was when my back wheel popped off the trike... luckily I was just leaving the rest stop and the volunteers were exceedingly helpful to reattach the wheel and chain (after we figured out how a trike is geared!) – I was back on the road in minutes!
After the ride, we got stuffed on delicious food from Outback, Bonefish, and Carrabba's. It was a sea of smiles as everyone refueled, shared stories of their ride, and re-connected about life since last year's ride. We heard from pharmaceutical companies (Reata) and researchers (Dr. Payne) about the importance of our fundraising and involvement. The scientific advancements and current clinical activity for FA research can be directly attributed to the involvement of the entire FA community. Every mile ridden, every dollar raised, and every conversation about FA moves us closer toward a treatment.
I challenge everyone to educate just one person each week about FA. If 1,000 of us can do it this year, that will be 50,000 more people next year that are aware of FA and can support our efforts (and yes, for those that would like to catch me on my math, I'm giving everyone two weeks of vacation each year!). Those conversations started years ago in Chicago, have now grown to over $140,000 raised for FA research at this year' ride! $140,000 in one day that will support research, drug development, and clinical trials! This kind of progress only comes from massive support, and that starts with every one of us starting the conversation about FA.
I won't say the trip is restful and relaxing – after riding all morning my flight home turns into a graceful stumble through the airport! But the trip is mentally and emotionally rejuvenating. I get energized when I reunite with our FAmily in Chicagoland. FA can be a lonely experience, so being reminded of the army of people in a different time zone supporting us, is invigorating each year. Only 51 more weeks until next year...see you there!