Alzheimer’s victims always with us on ‘A Ride to Remember’

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Frances (Glenn) Stebbins is remembered as a loving rider.


“There’s a lady looking down from heaven, and she’s proud of me. I guarantee it,” said Iowa State University Football Coach Paul Rhoads to hundreds of motorcyclists at the sixth annual “A Ride to Remember” at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames Sunday, June 21.

Rhoads’ mother, Mary Rhoads, passed away in July 2011. You can hear the emotion in the coach’s voice, and he chokes up when he talks about his mom, who was never able to fully experience his rise to head coach at ISU.

Every year for six years, he has reflected on his mom, raised thousands of dollars, shook hands, listened to stories, signed footballs and T-shirts and—along with his wife and two sons—led hundreds of bikers on a loop across the Iowa countryside with waving supporters along the route.

It’s personal. It’s personal for Coach Rhoads and his family, including his father, Cecil, who was shaking hands with riders on Sunday and thanking them for their support, and it’s personal for everyone who joins the ride. It’s personal for my brother and me, too.

Consider these facts from the Alzheimer’s Association:

• Today, 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including an estimated 200,000 under the age of 65. By 2050, up to 16 million will have the disease.
• Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. In 2050, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.
• Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth-leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older.
• Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
• Fewer than half (45 percent) of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or their caregivers are aware of the diagnosis, compared with 90 percent or more of those diagnosed with cancer and cardiovascular disease.
• In 2015, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $226 billion, with half of the costs borne by Medicare.
• In 2014, 15.7 million family and friends provided 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias—care valued at $217.7 billion.

Our parents spent many of their dates on a Harley-Davidson. Mom would pull her hair into a high ponytail and jump onto the back of that Harley. Our Dad once took off without warning, and mom slid right off the back.

Fortunately, she was not hurt, and he did realize within less than a block that he’d lost very precious cargo.
And when they’d break up, Mom would casually wait to hear that distinctive Harley sound pull up outside the house. It always did.

So when you’re a Cyclone, as my brother and I both are, and the offspring of Harley-riding parents, and when Alzheimer’s is a personal cause for you—that’s a perfect storm to make “A Ride to Remember” an annual not-to-miss event.

Rhoads’s “A Ride to Remember” is a great event and a wonderful mix of interaction with the coach, barbecue, cool T-shirts—this year featuring Coach Rhoads’s motorcycle—and best of all, the exciting moment when the kickstands are up and hundreds of motorcycles are rumbling and ready to go in support of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.

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