Cycling for a cure: Cross-country Ride4Gabe raising awareness about Duchenne
By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer
Many people spend Memorial Day weekend at the beach or on the lake, but not Michael Staley. The Hoover resident will spend the three-day weekend logging a total of 600 miles on his bike.
Cycling is a passion, but Staley isn’t just riding for fun, he’s training for the upcoming Ride4Gabe cross-country ride inspired by 11-year-old Chelsea resident, Gabe Griffin and his fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Duchenne is a genetic condition that slowly destroys muscle and often causes death before patients reach 25. There is currently no cure or treatment for Duchenne, although the Muscular Dystrophy Association said researchers have made promising strides.
“It steals life from young people,” Staley said of the disease.
Staley first met Griffin when he was working as chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus in Washington, D.C. Griffin and his father, Scott, stopped by the congressman’s office to educate Bachus and his staff on Duchenne and the Hope for Gabe foundation.
“(Scott) said, ‘My son is dying, can you help us?’” Staley recalled. “I fell in love right away with the cause and the family.”
The Hope for Gabe foundation focuses on raising awareness about Duchenne and supporting research efforts to find a cure.
“We feel like we race against the clock,” Staley said. “Every dollar we raise goes to a good cause.”
Staley and Colorado resident Wes Bates were the cyclists in the inaugural Ride4Gabe in 2014. The two peddled 3,400 miles, from Oregon to Alabama, in 42 days, averaging 80 miles per day. This year’s ride is a little different.
“It’s the distance of the Tour de France in half the number of days,” Staley said of 2016 Ride4Gabe.
Staley, Bates and Payne Griffin will set out from Houlton, Maine, on July 29. The trio of cyclists will log an average of 200 miles each day, arriving in Mobile less than two weeks later on Aug. 8.
The three men will take to the road at sunrise every morning, and sleep in tents each night, Staley said.
“It’s very intense,” Staley said.
The cyclists will be accompanied by a camper, which Staley called a moving billboard for Hope for Gabe, a nurse and possibly Gabe. A camera crew will document the entire journey. Gabe
“We’re hoping Gabe will be able to join us the whole way,” Staley said. “He’s a pretty cool kid.”
While the journey is definitely a physical challenge, the ride’s main function is to raise awareness about Duchenne across the country. Staley hopes to stop every 75 or 100 miles along the path to hold a community or press event.
“This ride is mostly about raising awareness,” Staley said. “You have to have people who know about the condition in order to do something about it.”
Community support is always welcome and appreciated, Staley said. Riders are welcome to cycle along with Staley, Bates and Payne Griffin for a leg of the ride or just cheer them on.
“We all have the physical fitness to do this, but the biggest challenge will be mentally overcoming when it hurts,” Staley said. “All of the support and encouragement we can get along the way really inspires us.”
Donations are also very helpful to offset the overhead costs of the trip and benefit medical research into Duchenne. The 2014 Ride4Gabe raised $50,000 to contribute for a medical research project, Staley said.
“We believe this generation of Duchenne patients can be the first generation to have substantially better lives,” Staley said.
For more information and to donate to the Ride4Gabe, visit Ride4gabe.com. To learn more about the Hope for Gabe foundation, visit Hopeforgabe.org.