By Nancy Miller
Every ADEC Ride-A-Bike has memorable and moving moments.
The slideshow embedded in my mind from past Ride-A-Bikes includes scenes of
Family Strength: the Stern-Gilberts whose son Micah, the perpetual youth pledge winner, wins so many bicycles he gives one away; the Nickels whose daughter Faith inspires the team Keeping the Faith, the Kirktons and Team Justin, which later becomes Team Ridge; the Riblets, Jay, Krista, Will and Jonathan;
Team Camaraderie, in 2010 the weather is so cold and windy the coaches from Team Ridge literally fall off their bikes after completing the 20-mile route; and
Youth Philanthropy: Ross Kirkton asking all his friends to give him pledges rather than presents for his 11th birthday; Shelby Nickel recruiting 30 of her classmates from Elkhart Central High School to ride with her and her family; Dinah Gilbert keeping the family tradition going in 2009 by becoming the top pledge winner in place of her brother who is sidelined by a tonsillectomy, and, of course, the students from Hawthorne Elementary School, the Pride of the South Side, who bring a heavy dose of enthusiasm along with their pledges.
So what will I remember from this year?
Karl Kingsley, engineer at ADEC Industries for 41 years, and his wife, Karen, show up at the back of the line of riders on a tandem bicycle and off they go. Nothing unusual about that – he’s a Ride-A-Bike regular – except that Karl took early retirement last year due to a cancerous brain tumor. Nobody expected him to come to Ride-A-Bike this year. He didn’t announce he was coming. Had we known, we would have bumped him to the front of the line to lead the riders. That’s probably why he didn’t tell us. Karl has always been more of a getting it done in the background kind of guy. And once again, he gets it done.
Craig Fulmer, a former ADEC board member and another Ride-A-Bike regular, joins Team Gibson for the 5-mile ride. Nothing unusual about that except Craig also has been battling serious health problems, including cancer. No one expected him to get on a bicycle and pedal five miles. His willingness to do so shows his commitment to ADEC’s cause, particularly the technology project making life a little easier for Chris Gibson who has cerebral palsy. Craig’s daughters and their families greet him at the finish with balloons, posters, high-fives and hugs.
Larry Bontrager, ADEC Vice President of Development and my boss, announces the start of the ride and welcomes back the riders. Nothing unusual about that, either – he does it every year –except Larry is fighting pancreatic cancer. Having just finished two months of chemotherapy, he wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to stay at this year’s event. He stayed the whole day. Everyone watching teared up when he stood beside Craig Fulmer for a photo. “Being here lifted my spirits,” Larry told me later. “Seeing the camaraderie, being with the families … it means a lot.”
Three scenes of determination, courage, resilience and commitment to a cause. Three men who, by example, define the very mission of ADEC and the challenges the children, adults and families we serve face every day. Three stories added to hundreds more, just as moving, from ADEC’s 61 year history and Ride-A-Bike’s 41 years.
Life is hard. ADEC is here to make it a little easier.