Friday, August 13, 2010

Why we ride

I met Kevin at the 2006 Disabled Athletes Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  That was really the only time I ever talked to him.  I was there because SVSU was working with the Field Neuroscience Institute and they in turn were working with Michigan Sports Unlimited, and they were sponsors of the Great Lakes Storm, a wheelchair rugby team, whose members were being inducted that evening.  Not surprisingly, the conversations at this event centered around sports, and in our one brief exchange, Kevin told me he loved long distance biking events and had participated in fundraisers for Multiple Sclerosis.  Recognizing a connection, I told him that my husband had done several MS rides and we confirmed that they had been at several of the same events.  Kevin asked me why I didn’t ride, and I said, “I used to do some long distance bicycle riding, but it has been a long time and I am not in good enough shape anymore.”  He looked at me incredulously and said, “If I can do it, you can too.”
He had a point.
Kevin had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair.  I was impressed that he rode, but I did not fully appreciate the magnitude of his determination and strength.  When I got home, I mentioned to Al that I had met Kevin and asked if he knew him.  Al replied “Kevin?  Sure.  Don’t you remember?  I told you about this amazing guy who passed me on a tricycle on the biggest hill of the ride my first time out.” 
A few years later, I started joining Al in the MS 150 rides and saw Kevin in action.   Amazing does not begin to describe him. He rode a custom designed tricycle and only had the use of one arm and one leg.   He rode for multiple causes – he was a top fundraiser for MS but also raised over $100,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.  At the MS rides, he almost always rode the double century (100 miles on both Saturday and Sunday).  This year he was pretty upset; on Sunday, just minutes before he arrived at the point that the 100 mile and 75 mile routes diverged, they closed the 100 mile loop due to impending tornados. He had to settle for the 75 mile ride, like the rest of us mere mortals.    He exuded personal kindness but he rode with fierce determination and he was simply unforgettable.
It saddens me to write this entry in the past tense.  Kevin has been actively riding all summer and seemed fine.  Unexpectedly, he died on Tuesday.  I don’t know what happened.  Tears came to my eyes when I read that to honor the man, his determination and his inspiration, friends and fellow cyclists will form a special bicycle processional  between the funeral and the cemetery.  It seems a fitting tribute a nd I am sure the road will be jam-packed with riders touched by this remarkable human being.
Today I am grateful for the inspirational among us.  They make us all a little better by their presence. 

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