NEWBERRY — In six years Bill Sweezy of Greenville never missed a mile of “A Ride to Remember” but this year the veteran cyclist had a mishap and wrecked, destroying his bike and injuring his leg.
However, Leslie, who was an original racer in EVENT, received medical attention and vowed to continue riding the following day as soon as his replacement bike arrived.
A small bike crash does not compare to what a family faces when dealing with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia, Sweezy said on a tour stop Friday in Newberry. He vowed to continue riding in honor of his best friend’s mom and in honor of his co-worker Norma Pitts who has early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
Sweezy understands the importance of symbols and messages and hope. A publisher for All About Seniors Resource Directory, he provides that demographic with educational information and with resources. But for a few days he was one of 220 cyclists took part in “A Ride to Remember.”
The event started six years ago to help benefit the South Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The race began in Simpsonville and ended in Mt. Pleasant, totalling 252 miles of biking over a three-day period. During the race, the 200 participating cyclists made stops in Newberry and Orangeburg to rest. This year, “A Ride to Remember” has already raised $150,000 to provide Alzheimer’s support services, education and research programs.
Luther Dasher of Fort Mill has raised over $5,000 during past races, and is one of the event’s top fundraisers.
“I look forward to this ride every year,” said Dasher. “It is such a well-organized and supported event. You cannot ask for a nicer bunch of people. I have friends, and friends of friends, who suffer or have suffered from this debilitating disease, and we need to do all that we can to help find a cure.
Rider Jonathan Edwards rode at the request of a colleague whose niece runs the event.
A competitive cyclist, he has ridden races such as The Salt of Mt. Mitchell. Honor students at Stratford High School raised money for the fundraiser through a raffle and a walk.
Riders who raised $1,000 or more received a special jersey to wear in the race the following year and Edwards was one such rider.
By the end of the day last Friday the event had raised over $170,000.
J.F. Hawkins Springfield Place helped sponsor the event and provided lunch for the riders and support crew.
Paula Demsey from Greenville has been riding nine years, most recently in the competitive S.C. State Road Race and also in the Greenville Time Trials. Her father had Alzheimer’s and dementia and a few years ago she learned of the ride while looking online for organizations to support research to treat those conditions.
“It’s great to be able to take something I love and be able to benefit someone else with it,” Demsey said. “It’s nice to know someone is benefiting from my passion (of cycling).”
Jason Leslie of Greenville rode on behalf of the Greenville Health System, which works on behalf of a lot of Alzheimer’s patients and also works with Greenville Health Center’s para-cycling team. Leslie was excited to be working with an able-bodied team as well. He’s been racing 27 years.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative neurological disorder that currently has no known cure. It is estimated that nearly 80,000 people in South Carolina are living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.