As told to Britt Julious
My daughter was diagnosed with stage IV lymphoblastic lymphoma in 2010. She was 10.
I was introduced to Cal’s Angels while we were at the Lurie Children’s Hospital going through Maddie’s treatments. The initial meeting that I had with Stacey Wahlberg and Tom Sutter at the hospital was just an energy that was obviously very needed at that time. On that day, we were there for an infusion, so we were there for about eight hours of chemo. I knew at that point, in one way, shape or form, I was going to contribute to the organization.
I started out just doing some miscellaneous things here and there. They asked me to be a board member about five years ago. I’ve since graduated to an executive board member as of about two years ago. I do a lot with the fall awareness campaign with the athletic programs at the high schools and obviously [help with] supporting our gala, which is our biggest event.
War on Wheels started two years ago. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’m 47 years old, but I’m an athlete by nature. Our first ride was from Santa Monica, California back to St. Charles, Illinois. That took about a month. That was an amazing event. 36 days, 2600 miles.
This past year, we rode from Iowa City to St. Charles. University of Iowa has an amazing children’s hospital. We wanted to establish a relationship with them as another hospital that we can work with and donate funds for research. We weren’t gonna be able to put together another two week or four week ride logistically this year. So I just said, “Let’s do something that’s grueling, that’s intense and that we know we can control. Let’s ride for 24 straight hours.”
How long can you stay on a bike? You’re going to be on a bike for—besides rest breaks—24 straight hours, up and down hills, riding in the dark. There are animals. Different things can go wrong. We had rain when we started in Iowa. That was absolutely miserable. Then you’ve got a psychological battle. These demons come. You’re like, I just can’t do this. I almost lost my daughter. She’s a senior now and in remission and healthy, but I had to rely on that fear I had and that anger.
We had a finish line with two kids who are fighting cancer right now holding a little yellow ribbon finish line. It’s one of those things where you [feel] emotional. All six of us huddled up and hugged each other and said our piece. It was an amazing experience.