Ride4Gabe generates awareness for boy’s rare condition
Published 4:30 pm Monday, August 15, 2016
By STEPHEN DAWKINS
A bike ride across nine states in 11 days was “tremendously successful” in generating awareness about the condition affecting an 11-year-old Chelsea Middle School student.
Michael Staley, who helped organize and also participated in “Ride4Gabe,” said the effort was an opportunity to promote the 21st Century Cures Act, which could open the door for new treatment options for children like Gabe Griffin suffering from Duchenne, a progressive muscle wasting disorder, and other rare conditions.
Staley, Wes Bates and Payne Griffin, along with a support team including Gabe along with family and friends, began the journey in Maine on July 29.
The trip was memorable for Gabe as he saw Niagara Falls, slam dunked a basketball with the help of the Syracuse University hoops team in New York and took a “VIP” tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, among other fun.
Some stops were more familiar but no less significant, such as when the ride went past Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham.
“We had over 150 people out there cheering for him,” Staley said. “The place that Gabe normally goes to be treated—for him to be able to go there and be cheered was one of the most meaningful moments of the trip.”
Children battling Duchenne and their families met up with the team throughout the ride.
Cyclists who heard about the effort also joined the ride for various stretches.
“On Aug. 7, we left Huntsville to ride just south of Montgomery,” Staley said. “There were 23 or 24 people that rode, and only five people who had ever ridden more than 207 miles, which is what we rode that day.
“People pushed themselves to ride the longest one-day ride they had ever ridden. We reached so many people who now know about Duchenne and want to do something about it and believe in our cause. Our goal of educating people was a success.”
There were obstacles to be overcome, such as the generator failing in the motor home that was part of the caravan, frequent rain in New England and an apparent stray rock puncturing the oil filter of the vehicle following the cyclists.
“Nothing ever stopped us,” Staley said. “We had some challenges, but we overcame every one of them.”
The team crossed the finish line Aug. 8 near the USS Alabama in Mobile behind Gabe on a motorized scooter to end a trek that covered about 2,100 miles, an average of 191 miles per day.
“That is a whole lot of cycling,” Staley said. “That’s more than a lot of cyclists have done in their whole lives.”
Staley said that although he has completed longer overall bicycle rides, he has never covered a long distance in such a short amount of time and after the ride was having lingering problems with numbness and muscle weakness in his hands and feet.
“The longer trips were nothing compared to this one,” he said. “It’s hard to explain how mentally and physically exhausting that was.
“There were times that I would not have gotten through this without thinking about Gabe. At times I doubted whether we could do it, but we were on a mission. There is a feeling of physical accomplishment, but at the same time, the work is not done.”