There is certainly no lack of charity bicycle events–all of them for great causes–and it can sometimes be difficult to choose which ones to join.
My charity efforts are directed to the Evergreen Chapter of the ALS Association.
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a motor neuron disease that usually attacks both upper and lower motor neurons and causes degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. A common first symptom is a painless weakness in a hand, foot, arm or leg, which occurs in more than half of all cases. Other early symptoms include speech swallowing or walking difficulty.
There is no cure for ALS; the best that can be done is for family and caregivers to provide palliative care as the disease progresses. Hopefully recent changes in stem cell research policy will continue and result in changes that can lead to an ALS cure.
Three of my family members, including my mom and her twin brother, have died of complications related to ALS. I spent March 2008 with my uncle at a time when the disease began to tighten it’s grip on him. One of the most amazing things I did while I was with him was the simple act of feeding him. We both agreed that me pouring Ensure down a feeding tube attached to his stomach gave us an extraordinarily intimate connection. Although making that kind of intimate connection is good any time, it’s the only way we can ease the suffering from this disease at this point in time.
He lived in Santa Barbara, where services for folks with ALS are virtually nonexistent. Since I am familiar with the kinds of services provided by the Evergreen Chapter of the ALS Association, the dearth of services in one of the nation’s wealthiest regions was quite an eye-opener. If you’re going to get ALS, do it in the Pacific Northwest.
The ALS DoubleDay is a gorgeous two-day ride (you don’t have to ride both days) in Skagit County, and support is provided by Gregg’s Cycles. The Saturday ride is a ~43 mile loop in the farmlands west of I-5, with an optional ~10 mile loop. The Sunday ride is a ~40 mile loop in the rolling hills east of I-5 with an optional hilly loop.
This year is the 10th annual ride, and 400 riders are expected to participate. The Saturday evening spaghetti feed will feature the Bluegrass band Prozac Mountain Boys from 4:30-5:30.
What stands out most about this ride for me is the caring support provided by the organizers and volunteers. This ride is the longest many of the folks have ever done, and is inspiring to see them step up and attempt this fairly long cycling weekend in honor of or in memory of loved ones.