Most of us learn how to ride a bike when we are young. As a kid it was the sole source of transportation. We rode to school, to the park, to our friends' house and sometimes, we just rode. I did that until I was severely injured at 15 years old. I never rode a bike again, until the age of 54. What motivated me to ride at 54? The Foundation's CF Cycle for Life.
When a family member was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, I got involved with my local chapter and wanted to participate in a fundraising event. My children were away at school and I no longer had to run around the country attending soccer or wrestling matches. My time was my own again, and getting back into shape had become a goal of mine. When I learned about CF Cycle for Life, I felt too old and too scared to ride again. But despite my nerves, I was off to ride.
I remember my first training ride like it was yesterday: 4 miles and I was out of breath and could barely move. But, I kept at it because every time my lungs would get tight, I would think of all the people with CF who would give anything to be out of breath just because they were riding up a hill.
I would think of how many people with CF were out of breath when they simply walked up a flight of stairs. My shortness of breath was nothing in comparison.
I used my inspiration and set my goal: to complete the 30-mile CF Cycle ride in November. This was a significant challenge for me, a non-athlete. I began training in July, and I rode every weekend and once during the week. The entire time, I had people with CF on my mind.
After four months of riding and training, it was finally time to participate in CF Cycle, the first organized ride of my life. I was one of 165 riders at the event. Most of the people knew very little about this rare disease. They were there to ride. I remember telling my wife that I was nervous that day and not sure if I would finish my 30-mile goal.
There was one little girl with CF at the event giving out little blue ribbons that said “BREATHE.” I took the ribbon and tied it to my bicycle bag, where it remains today. Throughout my first ride, I thought about that little girl and the blue ribbon and how what I was doing might be helping her live longer and easier. Each time I go to ride, I look at the ribbon and think of all those with CF and how the disease affects their lives.
That little blue ribbon, such a simple thing, added to my motivation to ride for the CF cause.
I made it all 30 miles that day -- yes, 30 miles. That ride, and doing something for people with CF by supporting the Foundation, touched me like no other cause has before. Maybe it was the fact that I was 54 and in growing older, I felt a desire to help people; maybe it was my family member and how I was doing something to help find a cure for the horrible disease they have; or maybe it was simply meeting my goal of riding 30 miles that day. I still can't pinpoint the reason why I participated so wholeheartedly, but it certainly motivated me to do more.
Going home that day, I thought about what else I could do. I knew that one of the biggest ways I could help was to raise more funds to advance the search for a cure for CF. So, I formed the first national CF Cycle for Life cycling team in the country. This national team, the “Matt Pack,” has participated in 11 CF Cycle for Life events from coast to coast. We've raised over $40,000 for CF.
Our team has become a great motivator for people to get in shape and make new friends. Most of these people never knew what CF was and never knew anyone with the disease. Today, I'm proud to say that these are my friends, who support the “Matt Pack” and CF Cycle for Life in many ways: They ride, donate money, and provide support services, and they are the ones who help make the “Matt Pack” strong. CF Cycle for Life has become my yearly riding goal. I train a minimum of 80 miles a week and will participate in 6 metric centuries (62-mile rides) this year. I rode over 2,000 miles last year and will complete 3,000 this year. All this because of a little blue ribbon on my cycle bag saying “BREATHE.” All this for the 30,000 people who have CF, a disease that we will someday beat.
I encourage you to do the same as I have done. Get involved, make a difference, and join in to help find a cure for CF. You can even join the “Matt Pack” and become one of our team members and one of my new friends.