Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why do I Ride?

Today, rider Heather VanKeuren, shares with us why she has chosen to ride the 140 miles. Heather won't be on a bicycle but rather her 1998 Yamaha V Star Custom as part of our motorcycle crew. Along with Jim Snow, Heather provides valuable support to our bicyclists by cheering them on, blocking traffic at intersections and overall keeping them safe on the roads. You'll be sure to notice Heather along the ride with her infamous skunk helmet.

I ride for my Dad, my Aunt Maria and most of all for my cousin Harry.

I will never forget how I felt walking in to a very cold and grey hospital room with my Mom and Dad visiting my cousin Harry in Manhattan, NY. I went right up to his bed, leaned over him and gave him a hug, he was so weak and sick he couldn't even raise his arms to hug me back. All the nurses and doctors were wearing masks, gloves, booties and paper gowns over their scrubs. They were so hesitant to enter Harry's room and I didn't understand why. I asked my Mom why they seemed so cold and distant to him...she said Harry has AIDS and no one wanted to get it! I wish back then they knew what we know now. I can't imagine what people with HIV/AIDS must have gone through in the 80's. He was lying there in that hospital bed feeling so alone and scared. On March 7, 1988 my cousin Harry died.

That is why I ride...

I lost my father too soon. He had been diagnosed with cancer less than a year before he passed away. Thank God for the Hospice House in Florida. Without them, I would have never gotten through the toughest time in my life. The rooms were beautiful, the food was good and the nurses so caring. What a difference from 10 years before. Our family was all there at my Dad's bed side. I told him it was ok to go, we would be ok. I held my father's hand as he took his last breath. On December 8, 1998 my father died. I was only 30, way too soon to be without a father in your life. I still can't go down the card aisle before Father's Day every year.

That is why I ride...

My Aunt Maria had cancer too, she passed away on July 27, 2008 in Syracuse, NY. It was 10 years since I lost my father and the care was even better for people with life threatening diseases like cancer. I remember going to visit her and she would say, "I don't know what I would do without Meals on Wheels." Some days she was so weak she was only able to get a meal out of the refrigerator and heat it up. My Aunt and I were very close, we talked on the phone regularly even though we lived far away. I still find myself reaching for the phone to call her, even though I know no one will pick up.

That is why I ride...

I have been faced with death far too often and too close to my heart in the last 30 years. I know that by volunteering for Ride for the Feast, I make a difference in changing the experience for another family in the future. I know that so many people will receive a nutritious meal day every day thanks to Moveable Feast and to that family, that means the world!

That is why I ride!

I am proud to say this is my 3rd year riding with The Chain Gang as one of the motorcycle crew for Ride for the Feast! I hope to see everyone on a training ride or in May at the Ride for the Feast - Heather.

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