Biking for those who can’t

By Caitlyn Wasmundt

August 4, 2014

Juliana Gabel, Delaney Branigan, Kaitlyn Hastings, and Ezra Sonderling are pedaling their way across the country to raise awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy —the number one genetic killer of children in the world with no approved treatment.

DMD randomly occurs in one out of 3,500 births.

The four teens started their cross-country tour in Astoria, Ore., as part of the Jett Foundation’s annual ride.

Before the summer’s through, the teens will travel 15 states and 3,500 miles to end up in Point Pleasant, N.J.

The teens’ 48th stop was last Thursday at Paul Wilson’s house in Wellington.

Wilson, of Jones Street, and pastor at First United Methodist Church and a cyclist himself. He said he supports a lot of causes that put people on bikes.

On average, the four teenagers on the JetRide team pedal 80 miles per day with two of their chaperones while another drives a van loaded with refreshments and first aid kits.

Giving up their summers for a cross-country venture can seem daunting for many people but the teens said they wanted to do something to support those they know who’ve been diagnosed with DMD.

Branigan and Hastings both have a cousin who was diagnosed. The girls said they wanted people to be aware of what the disease is.

Gabel’s neighbor was also diagnosed. Before stopping in Wellington, the teens made a stop in Gabel’s hometown of Curtice, Ohio, where she visited her neighbor.

The cyclists said riding for so long eventually becomes a mental hurdle rather than a physical one.

Gabel said seeing her neighbor gave her the motivation to continue on for the 15 other destinations.

Though the other teens haven’t been able to see their loved ones since they took off in June, they said meeting dozens of people with DMD along their ride has kept their spirits up.

“It makes it all worth it,” Branigan said.

The times on the road haven’t all been smooth sailing though.

Hastings said she almost got hit by a semi when she fell off her bike. Branigan said she too got scraped up from falling off her bike.

But the close calls and injuries are all worth it, Branigan said.

“You’re doing it for the boys who can’t,” she said.

The four teens have been an inspiration to their chaperones Daniel Carrion, Julianne Panagacos, and Bruce Sturges.

“Just the strength and compassion they have for the Duchenne kids is incredible at their age,” Carrion said.

Caitlyn Wasmundt may be reached at 440-647-3171 or on Twitter @LC_CaitW.