In honor of her husband, and as a way to help the ALS Association Oregon and SW Washington Chapter, Tami Garner of Scappoose will be embarking on an incredible journey, beginning May 1, to ride her bike in all 50 states.
Garner's husband, Gary, died March 20 at the age of 55, following a two-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. One of its most famous victims was New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig, who died in 1941 at age 37. Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and jazzman Charles Mingus are among others who battled the disease.
Garner's aim is to raise $50,000 to benefit the ALS chapter in Oregon.
Garner will be driving her wheelchair-accessible van to each of the 48 contiguous states; she will fly to Alaska and Hawaii.
Her bike rides will run about 10 to 15 miles. The public, in each state, is encouraged to ride their bikes, socially distanced, along with Garner.
It had always been Tami and Gary Garner's goal to bike throughout the country.
"Before he got sick, we had always talked about riding around the States," Garner said. "I'm fulfilling that dream for him."
Garner has enjoyed past bicycle trips with her husband.
"Gary and I used to ride all the time. That was one of our passions, riding together," Garner said. 'We've ridden in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. I'm really excited about just getting into some of the smaller towns, seeing the country. Some of the better bike rides are kind of off the beaten path."
Garner is looking forward to meeting people along the way and enjoying nature.
"My husband did just pass away and nature is the perfect place to work through some of that healing process with grief," Garner said. "It's just going to be an amazing experience. I can't wait to get started."
Garner's desire during her ambitious trek is to raise money for ALS patient care and research. The disease has no known cure, and treatments can only slow its progression, not halt it entirely.
"The goal is we want to raise $50,000, and it kind of coincides with the '50 rides, 50 states,'" Garner said. "I just really hope we can reach that figure. I know the ALS foundation here in the Northwest is incredible with the amount of support and the hands-on help that they offer people living with ALS. I really want to help that team do what they do best."
Helping coordinate the bike ride is Garner's sister, Lynda Lybeck-Robinson.
"When Tami decided she wanted to raise money for ALS, it was critical that we handle any money exchange professionally and appropriately," Lybeck-Robinson said. "We contacted ALS and they built a donation website for Tami, specifically for this fundraiser."
Lybeck-Robinson, who is from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, continued, "That money is 100 percent accountable for the ALS Pacific NW Chapter. When you're donating money to people, it's really important to know where it's going."
To help Garner raise money, you can visit TeamGary2021.com.
It will certainly be a challenge for Garner as she visits every state.
COVID-19 health and safety restrictions vary from state to state. Public health experts say that although cases are easing throughout most of the country as more Americans are getting vaccinated, it's still a good idea to limit close contact with people outside your household. "She is COVID-concerned and COVID-careful," Lybeck-Robinson noted of her sister, "and she will be able to be connected with people who have her well-being in mind — and that is reassuring to all of us and her family and close friends."
The cost of the journey is estimated to be around $14,000. While Garner says she's willing to shoulder that cost herself, supporters are welcome to chip in.
"We have put a link on her website for people who want to donate directly to her gas, her hotel, her food, expenses that will be significant along the way," Lybeck-Robinson said. "It gives people an opportunity to know that they're helping with something that's pretty extraordinary."
Garner's journey kicks off in Oregon at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 1, at the Banks-Vernonia Trailhead.
Even before she officially begins the journey, Garner has raised over $2,000.
While admitting to being a bit nervous heading into her journey, Garner is looking forward to getting started.
"I'm super-excited, and I know this is something that Gary would love to see happening," Garner said. "And I know if he were alive, he would be sitting in the car beside me, in his wheelchair, and rooting me on from the sidelines. I feel really excited about this."
"The day after losing him, she said, 'I want to help,'" Lybeck-Robinson recalled. "That is beyond extraordinary."
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