Friday afternoon we picked up Esella at school, grabbed some lunch, and then got on the road to head into “The City” (that would be San Francisco, for you non locals). We got to our hotel, checked in, and then decided to just go for a nice walk in SF before we needed to be back at the hotel for the CCC kick off dinner.
If you have never been to San Francisco…I am assuming you have at least seen pictures? Like of the INSANE “hills” that make up the city? I found this picture on another blog, ryanhellyer.net to show just how steep some of these “hills” are.
Let’s just say we are a little sore. Especially Justin who pushed the kids up a REALLY steep hill (just like the one in the picture of the man above) so that we could go look at Lombard street. We were originally going to walk down the most crooked street in the world but wouldn’t you know it…there were only STAIRS! No stroller access.
Oh well. We had plenty of other hills to climb. And go down.
So we saw the sights and took in the sounds of the city for a couple hours before heading back to the hotel ti get ready.
|The Golden Gate|
We got back to the hotel and headed down to the registration area to go meet some of the AF staff and volunteers. Beth, who works at our local AF office and coordinates this amazing event, introduced us to all kinds of wonderful people. Esella was given her own pom pom to use to cheer on the riders in the morning. It was so awesome to be in the chaos of registration and seeing all these people getting ready to bike for EIGHT DAYS.
After checking in, we met up with both sets of our parents who had rooms right by ours, and got ourselves and the kids ready for the evening. At 6pm they had a cocktail hour, followed by a dinner for all the AF staff, volunteers and riders. It was a little overwhelming as there must have been maybe 250 people there. There were over 170 riders alone!
Some different people went up to speak as we finished up our meals. They began by showing THIS VIDEO made by the 16-18 year olds at the JA conference in DC this past July. Then the president of our local chapter introduced our family and Esella and spoke about us a bit and then they showed the VIDEO I MADE . And at the end we had the opportunity to speak to the group. Since I am not exactly in love with public speaking, Justin spoke on behalf of all of us to thank the riders and the AF for everything, as well pointing out how we need more ped rheumys and more research for this disease. There were so many things we would have liked to have said…but we knew that it was late and the riders needed to get their sleep.
Afterwords it was like a mob scene for us. We had so many people come up to introduce themselves and want to meet Ellie. Flashes were going off like crazy as pictures were being taken left and right. One man, a rider, came up to me and told me that he got into this bike ride several years ago for himself…something to help him lose weight and stay active. He told me that my video made him cry. That it was heart breaking and that he now knows why he is riding. He is riding for Esella and all the kids like her. He thanked me several times and I thanked him as well for riding for my daughter. It was a really touching moment that will stay in my heart. I am tearing up now thinking about it.
|Three of the eight honorees|
Justin had a similar experience with another rider. When he asked him what his reason for riding is, he said “I have a reason now.”
We were also so blessed to meet another family whose daughter is an honoree this year. Colleen is a woman whom I “met” as part of an online support system for parents with JA. Her daughter Cailtin has the severe form of JA referred to as Systemic JA (aka Stills Disease). This type can attack organs and causes high fevers, rashes, joint pain and swelling. Caitlin’s story is not mine to tell, but she is one brave, strong young lady. Colleen and her family started participating in the AF’s walks many years ago and their team, the Princess Parade has raised over $200,000 dollars for the foundation!!! This family is AMAZING and such an inspiration. Colleen and her family are very well respected in the JA parent community and so many people strive to be like them. This year, Colleen’s husband Dave is taking part of the CCC for the first time. As they said in their VIDEO they are taking the “Princess Parade on the road.”
Colleen is blogging about Dave’s trip and also wrote a post about the CCC kick off. You can read it HERE
In addition to meeting Colleen, Caitlin and Dave, we also were so lucky to meet another Honoree, Alexa, and her family. Alexa has got to be one of the most mature and poised young ladies I have ever met. She was AMAZING with Esella and Esella just LOVED both Alexa and Caitlin. Alexa’s mother and I spoke for a while on Saturday and it seems her story started out so much like Esella’s. I hope that my E will grow up to be like Alexa and Caitlin. So strong, respectful and resilient.
So Saturday morning we got up early to see the riders off. We clapped and cheered until the last of the 170+ riders took off and headed on their 525 mile journey down the coast in honor of these three amazing girls, as well as the other five honorees and the rest of the nearly 300,000 children in the US suffering from JA.
|Esella watching the riders take off|
|E and Alexa hanging out|
|There was an awesome marching percussion band at the send off…and E got to play the drums!|
It was, well, an honor that our baby girl was one of the eight selected to be an honoree this year for the California Coast Classic bike tour. We honestly had a great time, and feel blessed that of we have to be here in the world of JA, that we at least can be surrounded by amazing people. SO far the tour has raised nearly $900,000 (that is what we were told at the kick off). We would LOVE to see it break a million! So if you have a few pennies to share…you can make a donation by clicking the link above to the CCC website. Colleen’s husband is the only rider I “know” and you can make a donation in Esella’s name by clicking HERE.
The CCC will be posting pictures daily on their website (the link above) click on 2011 Ride Photos….and you will see some familiar faces in the Arrival section 😉
We wish the riders good luck and a happy and safe voyage. And we thank them for all they have done. Together we can make a DIFFERENCE.
|Caitlin, Ellie and Alexa seeing off the riders.|
|This disease picks beauty, doesn’t it?|