Headed home from a road trip is always something of a letdown. To work against that, I decided to take a different route back to Florida to get a glimpse of some places and things I hadn’t seen before. There was also those crazy couple of hours from the previous afternoon’s “Make-A-Wish” presentation ceremony that I could play back in my head between the newly planned roadside highlights.
About the time Nebraska turned into Kansas, I recalled a bit of conversation from the day before that the family was looking
forward to using my CAREBIKEs (a bicycle designed to carry a wheelchair) in the spring to take the boys to local baseball games. That was the cherry that topped the whole thing off. With all the thought that went into making CAREBIKE and all the windshield time spent thinking about my bikes in York, Nebraska, for my money, the bikes could serve no higher purpose than enabling the whole family to catch a baseball game.
Back in Florida, there were a handful of days when all was right with the world. The trip had gone better than I could have ever imagined. The new career path was starting to gain some traction. It felt like my passion was beginning to make a difference.
I was in the middle of Lowe’s getting some hardware for the next CAREBIKE. An email came through on my cell phone. What started out seemingly as a pleasant note from a woman I met in York turned suddenly into news that Peyton had passed away.
I only met Peyton and his brother, Parker, the day they got their CAREBIKEs. I spent a couple of hours around the boys, their Mom and Dad, Chad and Julie, the “Make-A-Wish” folks and half the town of York getting everyone all checked out on the new bikes. With all that was going on there wasn’t much of a chance to really connect with either one of the boys. And here I was, virtually a stranger, half-the-country away but so immediately devastated that it took me quite some time to find my next few steps.
Again, with all the thought that went into making CAREBIKE, it was always about fun. It was always about everybody having a chance to get outside and move. Heartbreak had never entered the thought process. But Peyton never got a chance to experience a fraction of the joy that I’d built into his bike. The four them never got the chance to ride down to the ball field to catch a bit of the action. Life constantly reminds you that very little of life is fair. Rarely do things work out just as they should. This little boy’s life ended way too early. As a Dad, I wouldn’t allow myself to remotely imagine the nightmare that Chad and
Julie were so suddenly living.
Still in the hardware aisle, as things began to clear, I caught myself going through a mental list of possible reactions. Obviously, there was nothing I can do to change anything. Very little in my control would allow any of Peyton’s family and friends to feel the slightest bit better. The brief brush with his family, along with the 1500 mile separation prohibits me from making the slightest bit of difference to those in and around York. Then it came to came to me.
CAREBIKE is a direct result of my own family’s story. With all we’ve been through, I’ve learned above all else that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. So in this dark moment I took the same approach. I decided, in that same spot, to take the energy within this pain and redirect it toward working harder, smarter and more creatively to get more bikes to kids like Peyton. I will use this sense of loss to push myself to move my project into a higher gear so more kids will have the opportunity to fully understand the joy built into each CAREBIKE.