Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Kindness in the World of Cycling

One of the reasons I love making upcycled pillows so much is the meaning behind the pieces used to create them. The stories always fascinate me, and I love that my customers are willing to share their history with me. The following story is one I really wanted to share with you as it shows the kindness of others in a difficult situation.

Harvey Laabs contacted me to create pillows out of some of his cycling shirts from the Bike: MS TRAM (The Ride Across Minnesota), which he has taken part in for many years. He had purchased a new bike, which fell off during transit to the event. Harvey went back to find his bike, and it had been taken. The below Q&A with Harvey tells how his fellow riders demonstrated their kindness during a hard time!

How did you become interested in cycling?

I was in my 40's and started to think I needed to start becoming more active. My old Schwinn was hanging in the garage, so I took it down and started riding. At first it was only five miles, then ten and within a couple of years, it was up to fifty, or more. I upgraded the quality of my bicycle over the years as I started riding longer distances.

What inspires you to participate in the racing events?

While it is relaxing to be alone with my thoughts on a bicycle out on a country road, or on a bike path running through a forest; being with a group of like-minded folks adds to the enjoyment. Everybody has such a good time; I think it might have something to do with the fact that we kind of feel like we are kids again - riding our bikes all over the place.

(Kathy and Mike)

Why did you decide to have Memory Pillows made from your cycling shirts?

They are the perfect memory gift for my very favorite biking event - The Ride Across Minnesota. There were several cycling friends that gave me a lot of support last year (2016), and I wanted to let them know how much they are appreciated. (See my answer to the next question for details.) I also kept one of the pillows for myself as a unique reminder of TRAM.

What is your favorite moment from one of the races you've taken part in?

There are two favorites - both related to The Ride Across Minnesota (TRAM). This is a 5-day, 300 mile bike ride that is a fundraiser for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. It is very inspirational to hear the stories of courage that people with MS tell. One night during TRAM, there is a speaker that has been affected by MS. These speakers either have MS themselves, or are family members of someone with MS. Hearing how their lives have been affected by this debilitating disease makes our lives seem easy. There are several people with MS that ride the route; they are truly inspirational!

Shortly after leaving for TRAM 2016 (at 5:15 AM), my bike fell off my bike rack as I entered the freeway. (I had forgotten to strap the bike to the carrier.) I searched the ditches for two hours, but someone had apparently stopped and picked it up. I was devastated, but decided to drive to the TRAM starting point in St. Joseph anyway; I had donations to turn in, and hoped to find a rental bike. At the check-in spot, my friend Mark and his wife and son were there; this was a complete surprise, because they live in Omaha. I had met Mark in 1991 on TRAM and had formed a close friendship. The three of them had come to TRAM to surprise me! Mark had two bikes with him. He lent me one to use for the week.

During the five days of the event, the story of my lost bike circulated among the hundreds of riders. On the last night of TRAM, my young friend Erin got up in front of the crowd and made an announcement. She told the crowd about my lost bike and went on to explain that she and her family members had walked through the campgrounds at night, asking for donations for me to replace my bicycle. This was the second surprise for me during the week. As she left the stage, she presented me with a large thick envelope filled with cash that the other riders had donated. When I got home and counted the money, I discovered that there was $1034 to help me buy a new bike!

The five of the six Memory Pillows that Emily made for me were wonderful thank you gifts for Mark, Erin and her family. I kept one for myself and distributed the other five to them. The day that Mark's pillow arrived in his mail box, he phoned me and we had a great talk about life, and the amazing generosity of people. He told me the pillow was the perfect gift. Erin and her friend Jack were also pleased to see the pillow. I gave them the other pillows to pass onto their family members. I look forward to seeing Erin, Jack and the rest of the family on TRAM 2017 and see, in person, their reaction to the pillows.

(Jack, Harvey, and Erin)

Have you learned some life lessons from participating in the events?

My short answer is that I have learned that there are a tremendous number of generous, kind people in the world. I've also learned that we are often able to do much more than we first think we can. I originally set my donation goal for TRAM 2016 at $1000. Shortly after that, I increased it to $2500 (in celebration of my 25th TRAM). By the time I left for TRAM, my friends and family had donated $3200!

Thank you for sharing your stories and photos, Harvey! Good luck riding in this year's TRAM!!

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