By William Nedza
When we heard about this year's challenges, I asked if we could have a "rider report" to share their experience. The person I had in mind is Chainlink member, William Nedza. Every year Bill has so much enthusiasm, support, and energy in helping get the word out and participating in the ride. He has so much heart. As a part of The Chainlink, I'm so grateful for the ability to see first-hand how committed the organizations are to their cause. American Diabetes Organization is an excellent example of this commitment and enthusiasm for their ride. If you are able to, please consider donating. If you are looking for an amazing experience, sign up for their 2019 ride. You won't be disappointed. - Yasmeen Schuller
The American Diabetes Association’s 2018 Chicagoland Tour de Cure was… sadly, canceled. But the American Diabetes Association’s 2018 Chicagoland Tour de Cure was also an INCREDIBLE SUCCESS! Take a look at this photo, and then read my recap of the event, and you’ll begin to understand the success behind a ride that Mother Nature prevented from actually happening.
First off, let’s make this clear: the 2018 Chicagoland Tour de Cure wasn’t canceled by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Yes, the ADA was responsible for informing several hundred riders, volunteers, vendors, sponsors and local communities that the event was off, but the fact is that when you are told by the city of Aurora “you need to evacuate all event sites and park district locations immediately,” you evacuate immediately. Imagine the riders and volunteers who were ready to ride and provide support now being pressed into service to help “tear down” tents, tables, and chairs, and the incredible ADA staff and Planning Committee who worked so hard in preparing the event now having to make these difficult decisions as fast as possible. Rest stops that were already stocked with supplies, fresh fruit and packaged food, goody bags for riders, runners, and walkers, hundreds of volunteers traveling from out of town, SAG teams and motorcycle support riders geared up and ready to go, several routes through which participants would travel, and….not the least important, what to do with the beer?!?!? (This remains a mystery, but after the stress of the weekend, we can guess).
As to the question of whether “we” would have ridden had the ADA not sent those evacuation notices, let me give you my personal thoughts. I was in a hotel close to RiverEdge Park, kitted up and ready to ride when I got a text saying “ride’s canceled, check your email,” and I immediately thought “no, I ride in rain, this is NOT canceled.” I rode over to the event site and saw some of the saddest faces I’ve ever seen and several people with tears in their eyes. A few of my team members were already there, and we all looked at each other with that “who cares what they say, we’re riding” face. We all, of course, were momentarily idiots. We will ride in just about any weather, whether that be below freezing, 43F and a driving rain, 90F with howling crosswinds, across prairies with 50MPH headwinds, and (at least I know I have) in hail that makes your head seem like it’s in a popcorn popper when it hits your helmet. What any smart cyclist knows is… YOU DO NOT RIDE WHEN LIGHTNING IS PRESENT OR FORECAST. Of course, I had a solution to remedy the lightning situation, which was to have our two tallest teammates, Jos and Big Brad, be first and last in our team’s paceline, and each of them would have a lightning rod strapped to their helmet, so that when lightning struck close to us they would be the first ones hit, and, being the shortest teammate, I would definitely last the longest! Unfortunately Jos and Brad weren’t interested in my solution, Brad saying something about “I want my daughter to grow up with her Daddy around” or something incredibly selfish (just kidding).
So, what do you do when the ride is canceled?!?! Well, Team Joe Nedza hit the stage for some quick photos before we ended up going to Two Brothers Roundhouse Café for a couple hours of coffee, conversation and plans for the 2019 Chicagoland Tour de Cure (of course)!
Yes, the ride was canceled, but here is why the event was still a success in its effort to help with the ADA’s mission: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.
Yes, raising awareness and funds allows the ADA to provide a programs, education, advocacy, and, one of my personal favorites, camp for children and families with type 1 diabetes. Camp is a lifeline for children with diabetes to develop the critical skills needed to thrive while managing this disease. Attending summer camp helps children develop social skills, self-respect and life-long friendships.
Personally, Team Joe Nedza raised almost $11,000, and I could not be more proud of my teammates. When you hear “you know what we should do for 2019…” not an hour after the event has been canceled, you know you have some very special friends. (Team Murf should also be noted, they rock!)
The Saturday night before the Chicagoland Tour de Cure was cancelled, the ADA hosted a Pre-Ride Party to recognize sponsors, riders, teams and volunteers. Earlier that week I was asked if I wanted to be the “Mission Speaker” and without a second thought, I said yes. I planned to write up a little speech to go along with scripted lines that involved recognizing certain fundraisers, but, alas, my week became very busy, and when asked what I was going to talk about I said “I have no idea.” Well, as one of my friends said about my Tour de Cure updates and recaps, I can be rather “verbose,” so my main goal was to keep it short.
I talked about what led to my involvement in Tour de Cure (cycling, combined with a disease my dad suffered from), why it was so important to me to continue my involvement (this was my 15th year), what we all need to do to support the ADA’s mission, and the incredible things the ADA and the diabetes community does to help people. I also spoke about my first year riding as a “Red Rider,” which is a rider who has diabetes. Yep, 14 years I rode for others, but this year I also rode for myself. And let me tell you, as people with diabetes know, DIABETES SUCKS. But, as we all know, I may have diabetes, but diabetes does not have me. I’m now officially a diabadass. After the party, we headed to Two Brothers for some coffee, other hydrating beverages, and good conversation.
Tour de Cure means a lot to me, and when someone recently asked me “are you going to do Tour next year?” I said something similar to what I said in my comments Saturday night, which was something my dad once said about getting involved and volunteering for a good cause, “if not me, then who?” Am I committed to this cause? Let’s just say I’ve already booked rooms for next year’s Tour de Cure!
I am incredibly thankful to all the people who have supported me, my team, the ADA, and everyone who donated to this very important and worthy cause. I know there are a lot of good causes out there, but you will be hard pressed to find more committed volunteers, sponsors, participants, and healthcare professionals involved in fighting to find a cure for a disease that affects more than 30 million people in the United States alone. The 2019 Chicagoland Tour de Cure is less than 11 months away, and our team is already thinking of what we can do to grow the team, raise more funds, and how we can help the ADA achieve their mission.
I’d like to especially thank three people this year:
Tim Smiles: Tim designed our team jersey, and he is simply a brilliant designer. You know he’s created a work of art when people come up to you and say “can I buy one?” I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I was when the jerseys arrived, and you only would understand the joy I felt if you understood the meaning behind all the little things Tim incorporated into the design. Thank you, my friend.
My Mom: My mom provides me not only support, but she’s always there to proof-read what I write! Yes, even at 87 years young she’s a better writer than I am (ugh, I think I just ended a sentence with a preposition). She also cares about me, my passion with Tour de Cure, and has supported the team, named for my dad, unwaveringly.
Donna: What more can I say than thank you to the person who supports me the most? Donna helps me in so many ways it’s impossible to name them all, but most of all she understands what Tour de Cure means to me, and her support of me and Tour de Cure is incredible.
It’s not too late to support this cause; visit www.diabetes.org/chicagotour and donate today!
Ready to ride!!! Here’s looking at you, dad!