Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oh! The Chafing!

At the risk of slighting those of you in the “over 21” age range, I am rarely inspired by grownups anymore.  Not that grownups don’t do amazing deeds all the time, it’s just that on average, those deeds pale in comparison to what “our kids” achieve daily.
Len on the road
                This weekend, I was inspired by a grown up.  His name is Len Forkas and he (along with many others) got on a bicycle in Oceanside, California and pedaled nearly 3,000 miles across the United States, all the way to Annapolis, Maryland in what was called the Race AcrossAmerica.  Not only that, he won his division (50-59 years old) and placed 10th overall, edging out riders much younger than himself.

                Len had a bucket load of inspiration as he was using the event to fundraise for Hopecam.org, the non-profit organization he founded that connects homebound children undergoing treatment for cancer, and other life threatening illnesses, with their friends, families, and schools using laptops, high speed internet, and web cameras.
                Charlotte received a Hopecam notebook computer while she was undergoing treatment and we used it for Skyping, emailing, writing Caringbridge updates, and most importantly, for the Reading Vigil. We played recordings of friends/family reading books to CJ and people Skyped in from all over including our friend, Dr. Karen Massar who, while sitting in The Netherlands, read to Charlotte in Dutch.  It’s still one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

                One of the methods employed for keeping the purpose of the ride front and center (not to mention keeping Len pumped and focused), was to dedicate each day of his ride to one of the many children who have benefited from Hopecam’s endeavors.  On that day, Len would be read descriptions of the child as he rode. Charlotte got day 8 and a video dedication.

They also invited Rachel and me to Annapolis to be among the cheering crowd as Len crossed the finish line.  The wonderful people at Hopecam, including interim Executive Director Jennifer Bond, took very good care of us, paying for the room at The Doubletree Hotel and breakfast Sunday morning. When it became clear that Len was going to get in much later on Sunday then they had anticipated, they offered to pay for another night at the hotel so that we could stay and still see Len cross the “FINISH” line Sunday evening.

We didn’t mind since Annapolis is a beautiful town and was calling out to be explored by us. We figured we could leave early Monday morning in order to get Rachel to work in time.

So after a full day of walking, we settled at the courtyard into which the cyclists would be riding and waited.  There was a rather long time in between finishers which gave us time to network with people in the Hopecam crowd and with other riders’ crews.  One Canadian rider, nicknamed “The Hammer,” actually got hit by a car in Arizona yet was relatively uninjured and finished the race in ninth place overall.  One member of his crew had the torn up jersey he had been wearing at the time of the crash and waved it as he crossed the line.  There are many other stories and not nearly enough space.

Len hoisting his bike in celebration
We finally got word that Len was on his way and the large Hopecam crowd excitedly gathered around the finish line.  When he came around the corner in the dark with his various lights shining and blinking like a big rig on the highway, the crowd went nuts, us included.  When he got off that bike and immediately bent down to greet all the children who were assembled up front (and there were a LOT of them), it showed, even in his exhausted state, where his priorities lay.

Soon, the emcee brought Len on stage to receive his medal, given to him by two time survivor and Hopecam beneficiary, Shannon Eastman.  Len wasted no time making sure everyone knew who the star of this event was.  “I just finished the toughest bike race in the world but it’s peanuts compared to what Shannon has had to do.” With Shannon standing close on the stage, he said, “I could stop at any time, Shannon couldn’t.  She had to finish.”

Throughout the evening, I found myself wondering over and over again, “How can I do something like this?”  It wouldn’t be easy.  Just thinking about the amount of time and effort it took to train Len, assemble the crew, plan who was going to do what and where, not to mention feeding everyone, is enough to make a lot of people quit before they even begin trying.

Roger, Len, and Rachel

But you know us; especially when we’re inspired.

Anyone wanna go for a bike ride?

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