In 2004, I had a good friend, Rick Moisan, who was diagnosed with lung cancer. Rick was one of those anomalies. He never smoked, took great care of himself, didn’t have any family history of lung cancer, … I spent a great deal of time with him while he underwent his chemotherapy treatments and battled this viscous disease. At one point, it looked as if he was going to beat it, only to quickly have the rug ripped out from under him when they found the disease had spread through his spine and into his brain.
I was training for the Hawaii Ironman that summer as Rick’s condition worsened, and I dedicated my race to him and tried to raise some funds towards cancer research. This was the first time I had witnessed someone close go through something so awful and it really touched me. About a month before I headed out to Kona, I came up with the idea of hosting a bike ride in Rick’s honor. The idea at the time was to get a group of friends together, meet in Rick’s town of Woodbury, and do a scenic ride. I planned on riding this with Rick on a tandem. I sent out an email calling it “The Ride for Rick”, and Lisa Moisan, Rick’s wife, loved the idea. In fact, she gathered a group of her friends and took it to another level, by creating a raffle, getting a DJ, having things for the kids to do. We even had Conan Obrien MC it (Rick was an amazing architect who designed a house for Conan). I plotted out four different ride routes from 5 miles up to 50 so that anyone could participate. I still remember that it was a bitter cold September morning and Rick’s oncologist showed up to ride the 25 mile route in tight khaki shorts with the palest legs I think I’ve ever seen. By the end of the ride, his legs were so red and raw from the cold and wind that it hurt me to look at them. But this guy hadn’t ridden his bike in years and yet he pushed himself through the 25 mile hilly route in honor of Rick! That to me was and is what it’s all about.
Rick passed away that winter. Each September, we continued putting on the Ride for Rick. The event was generating a lot of money towards some really great charities and it really brought the community of Woodbury together. It continued to grow, and in addition to the rides, I added on a 5k event for runners. Yet, as it grew, I could see that it was becoming a bit overwhelming for Lisa and her crew. They had made this event huge, and it was becoming a full time job. Sadly but understandably, Lisa decided to put it on hold a few years ago. She was torn about this but also realized that in this economy, she didn’t feel right in asking the local sponsors to step up year after year. She did an amazing job organizing this event and it was time to pass the torch. Lisa decided this year to hand it over to a local scholarship fundraising organization.
I didn’t hear much in the way of advertising for this year’s event. I didn’t even know they were holding it until 10 days prior. When I did, I found they had changed the name of the event – it was no longer the Ride for Rick, which upset me. The event was yesterday, and I awoke to hear the sounds of pouring rain outside. It would have been really easy to stay in bed. As I drove to Woodbury, I thought about the fact that each year, over the last seven years, this event has been the one thing that reconnects me with my friend Rick. The first few years after he died, I thought of him and his family often, but then as time passed, I got lazy. I’d talk with Lisa periodically and catch up every once in a while through email or a Christmas card, but as time passes we get caught up in our own busy little world and tend to forget. At least I did. And I felt like shit thinking about this. But then I realized one of the really important lessons that Rick taught me subconsciously; since the first Ride for Rick, I realized how important loyalty as a friend is and how people put on these charity events all the time and even though they are raising funds towards a very worthy cause, for them it’s more about the support and the remembrance. To write a check yesterday contributing towards the event and cause would have been a way to justify the fact that I was too lazy to go represent and do the ride. It’s an easy out that gives us a sense of justification. Don’t get me wrong, the contributions are important and necessary and all good. But I needed to be there riding and as I stood at the start of the ride, rain drenching me before I even took one pedal stroke, I knew that this ride was going to be fine. In fact, I knew even sooner when the first three people that I saw there as I got out of my car were Lisa Moisan and her two daughters. I know that when I do my polar plunge, I always appreciate any donations made towards the charity we choose, but what really hits me is those who make time out of their busy day to come down in person.
Because of the weather and lack of advertising, the turnout was poor, but Kenny O. met me there and we headed out to ride, and it was a great way to start the day and the weekend. And to remember a good friend who taught me some great life lessons even after he passed away.