By Mark Cheater
On July 20, Robin Mower will set out from her home in Toledo, Ohio, on a charity
ride to the state capital in Columbus,
using rail-trails for parts of her trip. The 150-mile journey would be
challenging for even a fit person on a bicycle. For someone afflicted with a
debilitating disease and confined to a wheelchair, however, it's nothing short
Mower, 47, suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or
ALS. Commonly known as 'Lou Gehrig's disease' after the New York Yankees'
baseball star who died from it, ALS attacks the nervous system. Despite decades
of study, scientists still do not know what causes it or how to treat it. Mower
wants to see that change-and hopes her trip helps generate both publicity and
donations for ALS programs and research. "It's going to be an extreme
adventure, but I feel like I have to take this journey," she says.
"A lot of people don't know what ALS is, and that there's no
treatment or cure," she adds. "This disease can affect anyone at any age-it
Mower, a former Special Olympics coach, weight lifter and
mother of four, was diagnosed with the disease two years ago. She has lost much
of the control over her limbs, but she hasn't let the disease dim her
competitive spirit. "I want to focus on things I can do, not on what I can't,"
she says. "This is a great way to get the word out about ALS."
When she came up with the idea for the motorized wheelchair
trip this spring, Mower asked officials at the northern Ohio chapter of the ALS Association to help make
it happen. Mary Wilson Wheelock, the chapter's executive director, started searching the
Internet for information on paths in northern Ohio and came across TrailLink.com,
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) free trail-finder website.
"I stumbled upon RTC when I was looking for assistance to
find Robin a safe path," says Wheelock. "There are a lot of websites out there
and a lot of organizations, but RTC was attractive to me because it has an office
in Columbus and
it is another nonprofit group that we could help raise awareness of."
She got in touch with Eric
Oberg, manager of trail development in RTC's Midwest Regional Office, who
helped Mower's team plot a route along several Ohio rail-trails, including the
International Park Rotary Trail, North Coast Inland Trail and the Olentangy
Greenway Trail. He's also worked with partner groups to find suitable roads
that connect these trail segments.
"When you get a chance to help someone like Robin do
something like this....it sure makes those tedious days at work a whole lot
easier to deal with," says Oberg.
Mower will be accompanied on her planned six-day journey by
her husband, a cousin and a sister. She'll also be receiving mechanical support
from Permobil, the company that makes her wheelchair. This will be her first
rail-trail experience, and she's excited about it. "It's going to be safer for
me-I won't have to brave the traffic and worry about being hit by a car or
other vehicle, or slowing them down," she says. "I'll also have a chance to
show people the beauty of Ohio."
Oberg says it's been inspirational to work with Mower and
her team on this important project. "For someone like this, fighting a battle
like she's fighting and willing to do what she's doing, it brings home the
importance of the work we've done," he says. "The only unfortunate thing is
that she can't be on a trail all the way to where she wants to go-so it also highlights
how much work we need to do."
You can follow Mower's
progress on her blog and sign on to
support her effort on the ALS Association's northern Ohio chapter website at http://web.alsa.org/goto/RobinsJourney.
Photos courtesy of Robin Mower.
robin you are truly and inspiration! Love you and you have all of our love and support!! Go Robin Go!!
can you tell me which railtrails and time and date you will be on them, in Ohio? firstname.lastname@example.org
Robin, You will be the inspiration for so many people. I have and still support ALS foundation. thanks for showing the people what can and will be done.
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