Lauren’s Ride was a 36 day, nearly 3500 mile, mostly solo-rider bicycle trek, undertaken by a CalFire Engineer in 2012 to help his little sister. Lauren, a college student, had been in a swimming accident when she was fifteen, damaging her spinal cord and leaving her a quadriplegic. John, an adventurer always willing to help others, wanted to assist Lauren to get to college without always relying on someone else. And out of that love and devotion, Lauren’s Ride was born. With the help of friends, family, and wonderful strangers, John rode his bicycle across the country and raised funds to purchase a wheelchair adapted vehicle for his sister, allowing her the independence that everyone deserves. John and Lauren grew up in a close-knit family in a middle class neighborhood, located in the Bay Area of Northern California. As kids they were tight but competitive, the only two children of Dan and Judy, two East Coast transplants. John was four years older and they fought as siblings often do, but they always loved each other. They had no idea that a tragedy when Lauren was a teenager would bring them infinitely closer together.
When John was a kid, he was constantly moving. His parents were always trying to keep up with him and his energy level – when he grew up, he channeled that energy into his dream of being a firefighter. He realized that dream at the age of 26, when he became a CalFire Engineer in April 2012. At about that time, he had become a member of Big Brothers-Big Sisters, and when he was paired with a young man and started spending time with him, John began reflecting on what he might be able to do for his own sister, who had suffered a terrible accident when she was a teenager.
Lauren was a vibrant, loving, spunky kid. She was always smiling and was constantly surrounded by friends growing up. Her love of musical theatre put her on stage, dancing and singing every chance she got. She was – and still is – a lovable goofball, always wanting to make people around her laugh. When she was 15, Lauren was swimming at her friend Erin’s house. She jumped into the pool as she had done a hundred times before and a freak accident occurred – she inexplicably hit her head on the side of the pool, causing a spinal cord injury that would leave her a quadriplegic. Erin saved her life that day, keeping her afloat until EMTs could arrive to transport her to the hospital. Multiple surgeries and many years of therapy would follow, and continue to this day, helping Lauren to regain some use of her upper and lower body. The injury doesn’t slow her down much, she plays ‘Murderball’, or Wheelchair Rugby, and she still has that smile – but there was something missing. She wanted to go to college. She was enrolled in classes, but she had to rely on others to get to class, whether it was asking friends and family for rides or taking public transportation. A wheelchair-accessible vehicle was out of the budget and out of the question.
On April 20, 2012, John posted an innocent question on Facebook: “Hey, what would you guys think if I rode my bike across the country to try and raise money to buy Lauren a car?” He had no idea how he would do it, but he has friends…and they all worked together to make Lauren’s Ride a reality. And on September 9, 2012, John left the Golden Gate Bridge with Tony, who followed him in a supply-filled SUV the entire ride, and several CalFire friends for the first leg of what would be a memorable 36 day ride toward the Brooklyn Bridge.