Ride season is upon us once again! Registration is open and we have already begun to recruit our Southeastern Wisconsin Ride team. If you’ve ever had hesitations to sign up, you’re not the only one! Every year we have new riders that participate to help support JDRF and we hope that you will too! We spoke with Chris Fish about why he rides. Chris has participated in the Ride since 2005 in honor of his son, Alex – keep reading to hear his touching story about why JDRF and the Ride to Cure Diabetes are so close to his heart.
What is your connection to JDRF?
Chris: We first became aware of JDRF just after our son Alex was diagnosed with T1D on November 11, 1997. At that time, we were very excited to learn that there was a group that advocated for those who had T1D through fundraising, networking and support. Throughout the years, my wife and I attended a few of the Galas, our family participated in the walk at the zoo, and I attended a golf event and numerous bike rides. I served on the SE Wisconsin JDRF board for a short period of time as well.
Why did your family decide to begin participating in the Ride?
Chris: I first rode in 2005 at the suggestion of a friend who suggested we do the Death Valley ride. Not being a cyclist I was a little apprehensive about doing the full 100 miles, but after a few training rides, I was hooked and committed. With the support from the local chapter and JDRF coaches, I soon learned how to train and after logging some miles and a few group training rides, I knew I was ready for a century. The enthusiasm and support from the riders and the dedication of the SE Wisconsin chapter keep my anticipation building and on ride day we were blessed with great weather and I had the best ride of my life. I rode 2 more Death Valley rides and also one in Jasper, Canada where my whole family came along for a nice vacation. I took a little break from riding after taking a job which required a lot of overseas travel and then when I was home, I was very busy coaching Alex and his twin sister Genna in their baseball and softball pursuits.
Then, in 2016, tragedy struck. Alex, at the age of 21, had passed away from complications from his T1D while studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. Shortly afterwards, while my wife Kris, Genna and I were still grieving, a number of Alex’s friends stated that they wanted to do their first JDRF bike ride to honor and remember their friend Alex. They asked if we would join them. Eventually many of their fathers, a few friends and I (a total of 7 first time riders) made the journey to Tucson, AZ. Last year, my wife Kris joined me on the La Crosse, WI ride accompanied by another couple (with one more first time rider) who made the Tucson trip. For her first ride, Kris rode 56 miles on the heavy mountain bike that we purchased for Alex when he was 16 on what would have been the weekend of his 23rd birthday. This year we are signed up for the Amelia Island ride and will be brining yet another first time rider.
We plan to participate in a JDRF ride every year, not only to honor Alex, but to continue to help find a cure for those who still endure the daily challenges of T1D.
What is the most rewarding part of Ride day? What is the most challenging?
Chris: The most rewarding part of ride day is seeing all kinds of riders from all over the country with all kinds of experience levels who come together with a common goal- finding a cure for T1D. The ride day starts early and everyone is very enthused. The support and camaraderie along the ride is phenomenal, and of course, crossing the finish line gives one a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, not only in terms of the physical aspect, but knowing your effort will helps others.
There is no real challenging part to the ride aside from fundraising. For the ride, you can set your own distance and ride at your own pace. The rides are large enough in terms of participation and there is always someone else equally matched with you or your group, and who on ride day will magically appear and share the ride… the ride always sorts that out. The ride is very well organized and the support along the way is outstanding. The benefits range from the personal; with goal setting, accomplishment, meeting new people on the ride weekend to the holistic; being part of a cause, helping and paying it forward others.
Why would you encourage others to join the Ride to Cure Diabetes?
Chris: The ride demonstrates that what might be unthinkable is absolute possibility, not only in terms of a personal achievement, but toward eventually finding a cure for T1D!
Kris, Chris, and Genna at the Ride to Cure Diabetes in honor of Alex.
The Fish Family (Kris, Alex, Genna, and Chris)