A group of students from Western Kentucky University who are riding bicycles across the country to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research pedaled into Lexington Monday afternoon.
Among them was Lexington native Jonathan Greene, who flipped over the handlebars of his bike in Kansas and broke his collarbone. Greene flew home to Lexington, where he had surgery last week before rejoining the cyclists in Bowling Green days later.
“He had a plate and 14 pins put in, but he’s been back on the bike since Bowling Green,” said Tommy Sullivan, who has been driving ahead of the bikers on the trip.
“I was ready to get back out there,” explained Greene, who is riding in honor of a grandmother with Alzheimer’s.
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Members of the WKU Phi Gamma Delta fraternity organized the first ride of the Bike4Alz in 2010. Since then, the fraternity has organized five cross-country rides, stopping in different cities along their trip for fundraising events. This year’s ride includes five riders and two drivers, and began on May 20 in San Francisco. The 3,600 mile trip will end July 23 in Virginia Beach, Va.
The group will hold a fundraiser Monday night at Goodfella’s Pizzeria and Crank and Boom on Manchester Street from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a percentage of earnings going to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Cathy Greene, the mother of Jonathan Greene, said funds raised on the Bike4Alz trip have been “earmarked for research purposes” at the Alzheimer’s Association. The team will stay at Greene’s house while they are in Lexington.
Sullivan estimated the team has raised more than $30,000 so far. Logan Carroll, president of Bike4Alz and a rider on the trip, said the group hopes to have about $50,000 to donate at the end of the trip.
The majority of the funds have been raised through online donations and fundraising events. Supporters can “dedicate a day” of riding to someone who has had Alzheimer’s and make donations at the team’s website, www.bike4alz.org.
Sullivan said he decided to join the group in honor of his grandmother, who died with Alzheimer’s when he was in middle school.
“Really my only memories of her are her not knowing where she was,” Sullivan said, adding that she spent the last several years of her life in a care facility. “I want to be able to help those suffering from the disease and the caregivers.”
Sullivan said the most rewarding part of the ride has been stopping at care facilities in different states and meeting patients with Alzheimer’s, their families and caregivers. The team rides an average of 64 miles per day, but have gone as far as 80 to 90 miles in a day, Sullivan said.
“Sometimes it’s hard day-in and day-out to remember exactly what we’re doing it for … seeing the people we impact with our work means a lot for us,” Sullivan said.
Carroll said he decided to go on the trip to do “our part as our generation to do something about this disease.” Carroll said he was often inspired by caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s, and they are the ones who deserve credit and praise.
“We’re out here making some noise and showing some attention to the disease,” Carroll said.
The team will leave Lexington Wednesday and ride to Slade. They will make several more stops in Kentucky before riding to West Virginia on Saturday.
Monica Kast: 859-231-1320, @monicakastwku
▪ An estimated 5.5 million Americans are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
▪ Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
▪ Since 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 89 percent.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association