On Friday, July 18, 9-year-old Gabe Griffin will walk with his mother, Traci, and brother, Cooper, aboard a plane bound for Sioux Falls, S.D. in order to join up with his father, Scott, and a team of cyclists who are riding their bikes across the country in Gabe’s name. Without any further advances in research concerning his rare muscular disorder, however, Gabe’s steps may well be numbered.
Gabe suffers from a rare genetic neuromuscular disorder called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep the muscles intact. The onset of this fatal disorder occurs during early childhood and causes generalized weakness and muscle wasting that increases over time.
Gabe, and other children with Duchenne are usually forced to start using a wheelchair between the ages of 10-12 and lose their lives around the age of 20. While medical advances have led to some very promising clinical trials, to date there is no cure and no one has survived.
The Griffins are going to participate in the oldest and largest bike-touring event in the world.
Along with a team of two cyclists and two support staff, the group will take part in “The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa,” or RAGBRAI. Organized by The Des Moines Register, the west to east crossing of the state of Iowa is an annual event for over ten thousand cyclists.
As they tackle the RAGBRAI portion of their trek, the Ride4Gabe team will be joining up with Mike Boone and the Adaptive Sports Iowa team. Boone has been and will continue to be a huge asset to the Ride4Gabe team as they attempt to safely include Gabe in the ride as much as possible.
“Adaptive Sports Iowa leads the only RAGBRAI team supporting athletes with physical disabilities,” said Boone. “When we heard of the Ride4Gabe effort and their plans to ride RAGRBAI I knew we had provide assistance with any needs they had. We look forward to meeting the team and Gabe as they spend a small portion of their journey with us in Iowa.”
RAGBRAI is only part of the larger “Ride4Gabe” trek that started when cyclists Wes Bates (19 y.o.) and Michael Staley (33 y.o.) left Alabama traveling in a donated SUV and RV on June 23 headed for Astoria, Oregon on the Pacific coast. The riders then dipped their tires in the Pacific off the coast of Oregon on June 27 and have now pedaled across Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska. Today they will surpass the 1,500 mile mark, a little less than halfway through their route which will ultimately end in Mobile on August 14.
The ride has been immensely successful thus far. In every state, in nearly every town, people are opening their hearts to the team and taking profound interest in Gabe’s story.
“It means so much to me that all the communities we have traveled through have welcomed us with open arms,” Scott Griffin said. “It really energizes all of us when people stop on the side of the road and give us all the money they have in their pocket because they are inspired by what these cyclists are doing for my son.”
Felicia Young of Scappoose, Ore., flagged the Ride4Gabe caravan down on Interstate 84 in Oregon. Young’s son has Duchenne. She simply wanted to thank Staley and Bates for cycling across the country while hoping to save these DMD boys.
Ride4Gabe was greeted in Pendleton, Ore., by Mayor Phillip Houk, along with a local resident who is one of the few female Duchenne patients in the world. Susie Arroyo has been following Ride4Gabe on Facebook and Twitter, hoping the heightened awareness can assist her own life-threatening needs. Arroyo needs a new heart, and the in-person meeting with Ride4Gabe lifted everyone’s spirits.
In Idaho, Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd greeted the Ride4Gabe team with a public ceremony. Through her own tears, the mayor officially declared July 3, 2014 “Ride4Gabe Day.” The cyclists were then treated to an escort through town by the Fire Chief, and taken back to the firehouse to share in a home-cooked meal prepared by the Meridian firefighters.
These are only a few stories of the immense support and attention that the ride has garnered so far. As the team prepares to travel through South Dakota and set out across Iowa with Gabe on board, they can only excitedly anticipate that their success will do nothing but continue.
The Griffins will travel with the caravan, and thousands of other cyclists, for one week before returning to Alabama. RAGBRAI is a challenge for any cyclist. On behalf of Gabe, Staley and Bates are not just crossing one state, they are pedaling across eleven.
In preparation for the many opportunities ahead, the Griffins launched a revamped Ride4Gabe web site. The new site, created by Oregonian and Birmingham native Tod Ingram, will be updated each day with location photos, videos and overnight blog entries. Online visitors can also follow Staley and Bates in real-time, via Garmin’s LiveTrack software. Donations to the 501(c)3 foundation, Hope for Gabe, can be directly made on the Ride4Gabe site. The Ride4Gabe trans-America trek can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.