Cyclist Dave Nazaroff has set out on another six-day ride that will take him down the East Coast, through the Upstate, and into a Georgia community where his 900-plus mile trek is expected to make a big difference in a sick child's life.
Nazaroff and a group of cyclists began pedaling south from Nyack, NY just after 7 a.m. Sunday.
"I'm excited to get the ride started and psyched to be going down south," Nazaroff said in a phone interview before the kickstands came up.
Nazaroff, the co-founder of a triathlon club just outside of New York City and a seven-time iron man champion, has dubbed the journey the Ride to Give. The journey to Gainesville, GA is the second Ride to Give. Nazaroff and his wife, Kate, organized the first Ride to raise money for a Georgia boy suffering a debilitating brain injury in 2013. The charity ride quickly gained momentum on Facebook, and earned Nazaroff thousands of supporters, donors and fans.
"We started calling them the Ride to Give Army," Nazaroff said.
With so much support and so many families struggling with ill and injured children, Nazaroff said Ride to Give grew into an organization and an annual event, powered, by the growing group of supporters.
"We are an army of people helping out these families and everyone is part of the team," he said. "It's grown into something that's so much bigger than just my wife and I."
The first ride raised more than $150,000 to benefit Tripp Halstead, a boy who was just 2-years-old when he suffered a traumatic brain injury outside his daycare.
Nazaroff said this year's ride will benefit an 11-year-old girl named Callie Truelove, who suffers from Williams' Syndrome and heart problems. Before he ever hopped on his bike, Nazaroff said Ride to Give had already raised more than $55,000 for Truelove's charity, A Look Into Callie's Heart. He hopes he'll be able to give much more by the time the ride comes to an end.
When he arrives in Gainesville on June 12, Nazaroff said he will present Truelove's family with a check, and introduce them to a construction group called Sunshine on a Rainy Day, which provides house and room makeovers for families of children with long term illnesses.
"(Sunshine on a Rainy Day) made-over rooms in Tripp Halstead's house to help accommodate his needs and they are also re-doing Callie's house," Nazaroff said. "They're going to create a therapy room and a safe room for Callie."
The cyclist said more than 77,000 people are following his journey on Facebook, and many even have plans to cheer him on along the way.
"The response to this thing has been unbelievable," Nazaroff said. "So many people will drive hours out of their way, because our route is posted online, and they'll be on the side of the road cheering for me. It's just incredible that they're supporting our causes and helping these families. It's just incredible that people will do that."
Nazaroff said he's happy to see supporters along his routes, which span up to 170 miles each day, but he doesn't have much of a problem staying motivated. "Failure isn't an option here," he said. "What these families are going through is so much bigger than just me riding my bike. At the end of the week, I'll be done riding, but these families will still be dealing with these illnesses and these children still being in this situation, so I just think I'm blessed to be able to help out. To me, they're the ones who have the ultimate endurance. I'm just riding my bike for the day, and it's hard, but it's nothing like what these people are going through."
Nazaroff will travel through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina before he makes it into Georgia. He is expected to pedal through the Upstate on Thursday and Friday. You can view his route and track his progress by clicking here.
"I feel like the South is becoming a second home to me," Nazaroff said. "I'm just excited to ride through the area. There's such beautiful places (on the bike route) that you can't enjoy by taking the interstate. The people are great and we're going to do great things together for Callie's family."
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