I began this day of vacation at 4:30 a.m. to meet and greet the four Missouri researchers who will cycle 71 miles from Sedalia to Jefferson City. Jon Cirrito, PhD, and Jessica Restivo, are researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Joining them were Ben Timson, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Sciences at MU and David Oliver, PhD, Assistant Director of MU Interdisciplinary Center on Aging and Board President of the Alzheimer’s Association Mid-Missouri Chapter.
The four researchers and the support team stayed the night at Comfort Inn in Sedalia, and I wanted to catch up with them before they left town. I had a cup of coffee while they ate fruit, drank juice, and prepared for the ride.
I know David Oliver and he introduced me to the other members of the team. Dr. Jon Cirrito showed me a Google map of the route. They would be passing through some small towns that many of the locals have never visited. The bicyclists will go through Clifton City (“not a city,” I informed them), Prairie Home, and Jamestown before arriving in Jefferson City. They have three scheduled rest stops along the way and have no time limit other than to reach their final destination before dark.
“Some of the other groups have hit really bad weather in other states,” Dr. Oliver said as he applied generous amounts of sunscreen to his face and arms. “We credit this beautiful 60 degree weather to collective prayer.”
Dr. Oliver, 68, was the oldest in this group of cyclists. He said cyclists had to sign a release and list the medicines they took. “My list was long,” he said. “I have a stent, poor knees, and lousy hearing, but I am functional and know I can ride this bike 71 miles for this worthwhile cause. I’m looking forward to it.”
We walked outside where the four cyclists each filled two bottles—one with water and the other with Gatorade. Finally, the bicycles were loaded onto the two support vehicles, and we headed across town to Hubbard Park.
The bicycles were unloaded, and Jessica decided she needed long sleeves and pulled a long-sleeved T-shirt over her official Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride shirt. They climbed on their bikes and fastened their helmets. Dr. Cirrito took the lead on his bicycle equipped with a GPS.
It was exciting to see this group of researchers be part of a nationwide effort to make Alzheimer’s disease a national priority. The Ride began in San Francisco on July 17 and will end in Washington DC on World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21. More than 55 researchers have been collecting signatures to present to Congress urging them to make Alzheimer’s disease a national priority. The original goal to obtain 50,000 signatures has been doubled to 100,000.
Approximately 110,000 Missourians have Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and as the baby boomers age, the number is expected to swell to as many as 16 million by 2050.
Dr. Oliver explains that research funding is dismal especially considering the toll on individuals, families, and others. “I believe current research spending is around 375 million. We are riding to encourage Congress to push this to $2 Billion and make AD a major priority like other killer and devastating diseases.”
The side of the “pony” (as the truck is called) says, “The toughest hill to climb is Capitol Hill.” Even with the winding, hilly blacktop ahead of them, I’m sure Jessica, Jon, Ben, and David wholeheartedly agree.
Follow the progress of Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride at http://www.alz.org/ . While you’re there, sign the petition.