On May 25, 2012, a group of college guys will begin a North to South cross-country bicycle trip to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease research. They call themselves Bike4Alz.
The ride will begin at International Falls, Minnesota, located on the US-Canada border. Seven weeks later the group will be sipping piña coladas in the Florida Keys.
Bike4Alz’s mission is to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease research. As they ride through major cities they will speak about the disease at gatherings to spread the word. The route will zigzag through Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Louisville, Nashville, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. As they navigate the path they will encourage people to donate towards their 175 thousand dollar fund raising goal. All of the money will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. If you support Alzheimer’s research this link will lead you to their donation page with the Alzheimer’s Association.
The group consists of 12 young men who attend Western Kentucky University. These are not your stereotypical beer guzzling college guys. When I say “piña coladas” I mean: having a sip of a piña colada in celebration, and then back to business.
Led by student and rider, John William Owens (Will), the team operates like a fortune 500 company. They began planning the trip slightly less than a year ago. The group meets every week in the basement of their fraternity house, they say a prayer, and commence discussion. Each member of the team has his own specific role and title. When every line item has been addressed they close the meeting. They are quick, concise, efficient and professional. They have events scheduled, sponsors for equipment, and riding logistics planned to the “T”. I wish I were half as adept as they are when I was in college.
What is most impressive about these men is not their athleticism, maturity or business acumen. It is their personal motivation to organize such an ambitious fundraiser. While they have a central goal of raising money for Alzheimer’s research, their salient motivation comes from inside. Will describes the trip as a journey to help people, comforting others along the way and encourage more to get involved. Through this journey of promotion, caring and physical challenge they hope to learn more about themselves, and their personal relationship with Alzheimer’s.
Of the men involved, six of them have, or once had close relatives with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
For rider Josh Amos, Alzheimer’s hit home when his great aunt asked him who he was at church. Before this day, he had 15 years of small chat everyday with her. “For 15 years, I took simple chats for granted.” Josh describes with compunction. “I was so sure that they would continue next Sunday…and the next… and the next. I went up to my aunt every Sunday after that fateful encounter for nearly a year and the result was the same. Eventually, she stopped coming to church altogether.”
Trip Carpenter, another team member, anticipates the ride as an “awesome experience”. His excitement for the excursion pales in comparison to his inner motivation. Trip’s grandfather passed recently due to Alzheimer’s. Trip explains his remarkable relationship with his grandfather:
“What I loved most about him were not his words, or abilities, but instead his gaze. He always had this look in his eyes, which reflected profound wisdom and at the same time loving compassion. —It was as if he knew everything about me, from my most fleeting wishes, to my deepest motivations, merely by looking at me. When the effects of Alzheimer’s began to fog his mind, the gaze disappeared.”
Dylan Ward longs for his great grandfather who passed recently. His sorrow extends beyond that. Dylan’s great granddad did not have dementia, however his great grandmother, Mimi does. At his great grandfather’s wake Mimi did not understand it was her husband who had died. She thought it was his twin brother who passed years earlier. “She even told her daughter at the reception that they needed to take a plate home to papa Joe,” Dylan explains poignantly.
Sam Wells’ grandmother suffered from dementia. Austin Lanter’s grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s. Tyler Wittmer has seen many friends and family suffer from the disease. The three hold the same passion as all members of Bike4Alz.
Rider Ben Harris models many of his values and goals after his grandfather, an important role model in his life. “I know I would be a much different man having withheld the influence of my grandfather.” Ben recognizes the role that elders play in his family, and emphasizes the devastation that losing these elders entails.
The group will ride for their devotion to end the pain caused by Alzheimer’s. Whether they have a family connection to the disease or not, they all recognize the importance of our elder population and the need to stop Alzheimer’s. As I said before: these are not your average college guys. They are true role models.
By Carlos Barrios
Founder, Endear for Alzheimer’s
If you enjoyed reading about Bike4Alz you may enjoy reading more about them in these article:
Accept the Cycle of Alzheimer’s Disease by Overcoming Its Restraints
Younger Generations Will Conquer Alzheimer’s Disease. They Go by the Name of: Bike4Alz
General Information and List of Participants
For more information, make a donation and to follow the riders during the trip visit the website: http://www.bike4alz.org/
“Like” Bike4Alz’s Facebook page to stay posted on the riders location and information about events: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bike4Alz/102053333244863
Visit Will’s blog for information and updates: http://jwillowens.wordpress.com/
Be sure to join the cause by following the riders on twitter @Bike4Alz
If you would like to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association, in support of the Bike4Alz please use the link below.
If you would like to mail your donations please make checks payable to Dylan Ward and send them to:
1311 College Street
Bowling Green, KY, 42101
If you would like your donation to be named for a specific rider, please include their name in the memo line of the check.
You can email Bike4Alz with any questions you have at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bike4Alz members: John William Owens, Josh Amos, Will Garcia, Ben Harris, Bryan Hartzell, Kent Jones, Austin Lanter, Blake Neumann, Dylan Ward, Sam Wells, Tyler Wittmer and Trip Carpenter.
Photos by Shelby Mack, published in the WKU Herald.
Story by Carlos Barrios, Marketing Manager of Endear Marketing Group.
©Endear Marketing Group, LLC