Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Pretty cool day at work...got to ride in a group of teenagers from Bastrop, the final 40 miles of there trip from TN to TX...on bikes. And yes, they are in high school. What a humbling experience and amazing day...read on.
The story starts back in 2005. A young girl named Catie Summers had been diagnosed with bone cancer in Clarksville, TN. Despite devastating surgeries and chemotherapy, Catie remained an inspiration – a great friend and a straight-A student who simply would not leave her friends and school. She so inspired those around her that they rode over 30,000 miles and raised over $25,000 in her name so she could come to Austin and be a VIP guest at the “Ride for the Roses” weekend.
However, Catie’s disease returned, and stronger than ever. Despite her medical team’s best attempts, recurrent bone cancer is very difficult to treat and Catie passed away in December of 2007 at the age of 16…
That could have been the sad ending to a sad story, but I am happy to tell you that is not the case. Remember: Catie was and is an inspiration! And so, with the help of Danny Magrans – a teacher at Clarksville High School and sponsor of the “Helping Other People Everyday” Club (HOPE) – they came up with a super rad plan.
Danny got a group of his HOPE Club members and formed the “Viva Catie” campaign. Their twofold goal is very noble: support the Lance Armstrong Foundation and a new scholarship program in their local community in Catie’s name that will benefit another cancer survivor ("paying it forward", if you will).
The Viva Catie campaign decided they needed to come back to Austin, back to where Catie had found such joy. But they weren’t flying or driving, they were going to ride their bikes – 1200 miles – right to the doors of the LAF! Now it’s one thing when a long-time cyclist gets it into his head to do a long ride. Danny’s group was going to do it primarily with high school students, many of whom had never ridden any distance whatsoever, let alone 80+ miles a day.
But train and ride they did, and they set out on May 28 to ride relay-style from TN to TX. While one group of riders was on the road, the other two groups were resting and waiting to take their turn, totaling around 225 miles a day during the daylight window. Along the way they encountered plenty of challenges ranging from differing terrain, mechanical problems, winds from every direction, and oh-by-they-way it’s already around 100F here in sunny Texas.
I got to ride with some new friends and co-workers, Kim Barnett, Justin Joyner, and Chris Brewer and my good friend Randy Armstrong (different Armstrong!) on point in the lead car we were honored to escort them in on their final 40 mile leg. The ride was more celebration than high-speed pursuit, but they had earned this lesser pace from all their hard work along the way. As we cruised into the driveway of the LAF offices, the entire staff came out to cheer them in, a great welcome home for a deserving team.
We then all went inside (to get out of the heat) where we were further honored to accept a donation for over $10,000 from these fine folks, and then we surprised the kids with a conference call from none other than our Chairman of the Board, Lance Armstrong. Lance was on the road but wanted to make sure that he not only knew about their project, but that he appreciated their effort and promised the funds raised would be spent wisely.
1200 miles is a long way to ride but the Viva Catie campaign did it with style, grace, and perseverance – THANK YOU!
It was a humbling day, to hear the stories of how Catie affected each of their lives and to see her spirit live on...
Viva Catie!! We look forward to this teams next venture!!