A Columbia County woman is preparing for an adventure of a lifetime to honor her husband and raise money and awareness for the NW Chapter of ALS.
Following the passing of her husband, Scappoose resident Gary Garner, 55, from ALS on March 20, his wife Tami decided to launch a mission to ride her bike in 50 states, 50 rides, raising $50,000 for the NW Chapter of ALS.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.
ALS often begins with muscle twitching and weakness in a limb, or slurred speech. Eventually, ALS affects control of the muscles needed to move, speak, eat and breathe. There is no cure for this fatal disease.
Tami's first state ride is Oregon, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. May 1, at the Banks-Vernonia Trailhead. The expected ride will be 10-14 miles on the Banks-Vernonia Trail.
In the following conversation, Tami Garner provides insight into her journey.
The Chronicle: Why did you decide that this bike ride would be a tribute to your husband and would be of value to the NW chapter of ALS?
Tami Garner: Gary and I were avid recreational bikers, and had talked about riding in every state together as a couple. When he passed, I knew that I needed to do this in his honor, and thought that if I made it public that I was riding in his honor for ALS awareness, I might be able to bring together others who have been affected by the disease.
The Pacific Northwest chapter was so incredibly supportive of us from the beginning diagnosis to the end with his passing, I felt this was a way to express my appreciation. When a person is diagnosed with ALS, basically the whole family is diagnosed with ALS. It's a terrible time. There is no cure. Connection is such an important part of healing, and I want these people to know that they aren't alone.
The Chronicle: Who will be with you on your ride, how will you support yourself and what is your final destination?
Garner: I will be driving state-to-state alone. I like to drive and the alone time will give me time to process this transition without him. In each state, I will be joined by local ALS supporters, friends and families. We'll social distance of course, but the connection will be there
I planned to finance this myself, but my friends and family set up a fund to help supplement the trip costs. My final destination is Hawaii, but I know in the meantime I will be driving state to state, then flying to Alaska. Our calendar is already up on the website and we've got the first month locked in. We'll be confirming each state ride about a month in advance to make allowances for possible unexpected hang ups along the way to make sure we can be accountable.
As for lodging, I've converted our handicap van to accommodate my bikes, supplies and a convertible bed. People around the country are already offering their B&Bs as donation, some have donated hotel stays too. We're still working on that.
The Chronicle: How will you prepare for such a bike ride?
Garner: The past two years caring for Gary was hard and I'm not in my best physical shape, but I'm already riding about 50 miles a week to get stronger. I've always been very active outdoors. I feel like the fact that I am 53 and doing this, just as I am, might inspire others to realize that anyone can do this.
The Chronicle: What is the best way to keep in touch with you for updates about your journey?
Garner: Our website is www.TeamGary2021.com where I will post frequent blogs about the journey, and the team will keep the website updated on our progress. We also have a Facebook group TeamGary2021. Everyone is welcome!
It's easy to to send us messages through either our website or via our Facebook group with the same name.
The Chronicle: Feel free to add any other comments you might have.
Garner: Thanks for much for doing this. It's important that people know that when they donate to ALS through TeamGary2021 website, the ALS link is direct to ALS Pacific Northwest Chapter, is 100% tax deductible and benefits not only the PNW families affected by this terrible disease, but a significant portion is donated to national research for the cure, which benefits ALS sufferers everywhere.