For Caleb Starovasnik, the ride he’s on is measured beyond the miles.
“This is much more of a community,” he said. “It’s more than just riding whatever distance. It’s for a reason.”
That reason is his grandmother and cousins on his mother’s side. People in his family have been struck by Alzheimer, a degenerative brain disease that often leads to dementia and death.
The 25-year-old cyclist got on his bike for a Ride to Remember, a cross-state ride that raises money for the South Carolina chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a voluntary health organization for care, support and research. They raise money to fund treatment and advancements in knowledge about Alzheimer’s.
Around 92,000 families in the state have a family member with the disease, according to Taylor Wilson, a spokesperson for the association in South Carolina.
Cyclists began a Ride to Remember Friday in Simpsonville, ending a 65 mile trek to Newberry. Saturday, they go the 87 miles from Newberry to Orangeburg. The final stretch is a 100 mile ride from Orangeburg to Charleston.
More than 330 cyclists signed up with about $522,000 raised, Wilson said. Participants hope to hit a $600,000 goal. Donors can give money in the name of riders or teams that registered.
Wilson said working with the organization and helping to promote the ride comes from a personal place.
“My grandmother, my Lady, has Alzheimer’s,” Wilson said. “I, along with my family, have seen the cruelty of this disease first hand. And we are having to say the longest goodbye. ... I am grateful to these dedicated athletes who continue to come back year after year, continuing to exceed fundraising goals, committed to continuing to grow this event until we find a breakthrough to end Alzheimer’s.”
Scott Roark remembers the first Ride to Remember a decade ago and how former Mayor Earl Jeffcoat from the town of North, S.C., in Orangeburg County welcomed the riders.
“We were sitting outside of the (North) town hall building,” Roark recalled. “Mr. Mayor showed up and said, ‘Why don’t you come cool off in the air,’ and that’s how we started stopping at North Town Hall. We have 330 (cyclists) this year.”
Starovasnik is one of the cyclists that will make the ride as long as the disease exists.
“I will come back to this ride, every year,” he said. “Absolutely.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Caleb Starovasnik’s name.