A personal campaign sponsored by Ray Spooner
July 1, 2015
It has been Ray’s dream to bike coast-to-coast, and on Oct. 18 he set out on his last “little” ride with some help from his friends. An accident early on in the ride (which resulted in three broken ribs, three broken vertebrae, one broken arm, a collapsed lung and a concussion) temporarily forced Ray off his bike. But now he is back on the road on a donated recumbent and wants YOUR help finishing what he started.
July 1, we opened our website with the goal of raising awareness and funds to support the MDA/ALS as we ride across the county. We wanted to give back to the people and organizations that have supported us, and to further research about ALS and muscle disease. We went into this with no idea what was achievable and decided on a goal of $25,000. Through the outpouring support of family, friends, co-workers and total strangers, we reached that goal on Sept. 14. We still have over two months before the end of the campaign. So…as you may have gathered by now I do nothing by halves I have increased my goal to $50,000! Thank you to every person who has contributed to the ride of a lifetime.
We see this as an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for ALS and other motor neuron diseases, and a way to create memories for those who are sharing the ride. (100% OF PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT MDA/ALS research and awareness). On Oct. 18, I will depart from San Diego, Calif. and ride my bike across the southern part of the United States, more than 150 miles a day and 3,074 miles total ending in St. Augustine, Fla. I hope to raise funds to support MDA and help all those in the fight against Motor Neuron Disease and especially ALS.
My Life. Well let’s see. I grew up in London. I did the obligatory dishwashing tour of Europe as a kid. Travelled to Israel where I met the women who would one day become my wife. Moved to the States. Moved away and travelled the world. Ended up back where we started. Had a kid. Went to nursing school. Had more kids. Went to midwifery school. Got a real job. Bought a house. Settled down and turned into my parents.
OK, so there’s probably a little more to it than that.
I was born in London. After apprenticing as a jeweler, I did the obligatory dish-washing tour of Europe as a teenager. In 1980. I travelled to Israel as a volunteer on a kibbutz. In a bomb shelter I met Rae, the woman who would later become my wife,. In late ’82 I arrived in Urbana (Rae's home town). Worked as a jeweler and then later worked at the Physics department of the university (I helped to build a particle detection array for Fermilab). During my time in Urbana, I took up karate and became a black-belt in Sh?rei-ry? karate. That’s also about the time that I took up cycling. Rae commuted everywhere by bike and if I wanted to keep up I had to get my own. So I bought a second hand Raleigh at a university police auction.
After 3 1/2 years in Urbana, Rae and I traveled the world for 3 years looking for the perfect place to live (we traveled around America, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, India, Greece, Israel, and England). When in England, I got another secondhand bike and commuted to work in downtown London. By taking my bike, I saw London from a new perspective (overground as opposed to underground). This new experience lead to my first long-distance bike ride going up through the Lake District to Scotland. Shortly after the birth of our first daughter, Lisa, Rae and I returned to Urbana. I then went to nursing school, riding my bike to Parkland every day, rain or shine.
I went to Parkland for my Associates Degree in nursing. I then got a job as a labor and delivery nurse, and continued my education at the U of I to get my Bachelors with high honors. While working at Carle Hospital I commuted- not by bike- to get my Masters in Nurse Midwifery at UIC in Chicago. During this time most of my exercise was confined to studying on a stationary bike at IMPE (now the ARC).
While going to school, Rae and I had two more children, Manu and Sophia. Upon graduating, I started working at Planned Parenthood as a prenatal provider, and bought my first ever NEW bike. Through the years, I would ride all 3 kids on my bike and drop them at school. Around this time, they were re-paving route 45 between Urbana and Tolono. I used this as my personal training route. It was perfect; a blacktop with no cars on it. Over time, I rode further and further until I rode my first century.
In the early 2000’s I started riding long distances to raise money for charity. In May 2004, a close friend and I dipped our back bike tires in Yellowstone River in Montana and rode home via the Louis and Clark trail. This ride raised money for two local charities. On the ride the weather was not kind to us and I think some of the money donated came in after the fact because people felt so sorry for us.
I continued to do 100-mile bike rides weekly (yes I have a very understanding spouse). In 2012, I started competing in 24-hour bike-rides. In my first ride, in Minnesota with my brother and sister -in-law, I got first place. Since then, I have ridden in several 24-hour competitions.
After a bike ride back from Minneapolis in the summer of 2014, I noticed that I was having difficulty playing guitar. At first it was thought to be nerve compression from excessive cycling (excessive cycling? Me?). But several months later, a diagnosis of ALS was suggested. After delivering 2,095 babies and with this new diagnosis, I chose to stop delivering babies and focus on gyn and prenatal care.
At a January 2015 doctor’s appointment, the neurologist suggested that it was time to check off things on my bucket list. Rae and I had already traveled the world. So there were only 3 things on my list: spending time with family, becoming a Bar Mitzvah, and riding my bike coast-to-coast across the US. Rae and I are now using this time to see family as much as possible. The Bar Mitzvah was in July, and the bike ride across the southern United States was planned for next spring, but our neurologist smiled politely and said this year might be better. So October it is. The goal is to complete the ride in three weeks. That’s 150 miles a day.
NO one does more to fight ALS than MDA- ALS steals the ability to walk, stand, hug, move, talk and even breathe. Since its inception, MDA has dedicated more than $344 million to ALS research and health care services. MDA funded 64 ALS grants with a total of more than $17.2 million in 2014 alone. MDA operates an ALS Clinical Research Network, housed at five of the largest ALS research centers in the country, and their research efforts are prompting the U.S Food and Drug Administration and other policymaking groups to address the unique needs of ALS patients and their families. Support families in hometowns across the county and uncover research breakthroughs to help everyone with ALS live longer, stronger lives.