500 Miles To Hope

History of 500 Miles to Hope

It was May 1, 2010, and our first-born son had just died in the PICU at CCHMC.   Upon finally leaving and beginning the horrific 6-hour drive back home, Justin and I talked about the fear of having to enter our home.  While being out of the hospital was preferable, going home did not seem doable. We decided we needed to get away ASAP, and not to Cancun for beer and beach volleyball, but rather someplace to find refuge, someplace that was neutral, someplace we could hide and get help at the same time.  Some history: before the boys got sick, Justin was a mountain biker.  Soon after Andrew passed and we all began living together in Matthew’s room, Justin started following a dad who had started a non-profit foundation in his son’s memory: Pablove.org.  The little boy’s name was Pablo and he lost his battle to Wilms’ Tumor.  Justin became enthralled with this dad’s mission and even reached out to tell him about Andrew.  Spoiler alert… Jeff, Pablo’s dad, riding his bicycle across the country, dedicating each day to a child fighting, raising awareness and money: sound familiar?! It was while we were on this trip that Justin went out with a guide to try something he had never done before: road cycling.


Not long after we returned home, Justin bought his first road bike and began to ride.  It became very therapeutic for him, as he said he always felt two angels on either side of him as he rode. He soon planned on riding his bicycle across the country, but we were quickly blessed with a newborn baby that seemed to come out of nowhere. So, he ultimately found a 2-week ride that was being put on by a cycling tour company from Amarillo, TX to Chicago, IL. "A Father’s Ride" was born.  Sadly, he did not get past day two, as he was run off of the road by a truck and broke his shoulder.   After lots of physical therapy and time, the following year, he decided to return to the spot of the crash in lovely Clinton, OK to resume riding to St. Louis to finish what he started.  Keep in mind, at this point, Justin had really begun to excel in cycling. At the same time, The HLH Center of Excellence was beginning to take form with the help of Dennis and Ann Flaherty, Olivier Gillier, as well as ourselves.  When Justin told Dr. Lisa Filipovich (the world renowned HLH expert) about his 700-mile ride from Clinton, Oklahoma to St. Louis, it was then that she came up with the idea to finish at Cincinnati Children’s rather than in St. Louis. Thus, the new, 700-mile route was created.   A Father’s Ride became ‘700 Miles to Hope” and has grown every year since. Now, after participating in it the last two years, I can tell you that it is among the most amazing, life changing, challenging thing you will ever do. We debated quite a bit about changing the route because it’s not hard; it’s not really hard; it is beyond your scope of tough. And, for most of us, prior to the ride, the last bike we owned was when we were 10, and it had a banana seat and streamers. Admittedly, I thought that my grief, anger, sorrow and sadness would somehow be enough to propel me through all the miles, but it just doesn’t work that way. So, this past year I spent most of the year training, and training hard, so I could complete all the miles.

Over the past few years we have presented checks, totaling $850,000, to Cincinnati Children's HLH Center of Excellence!

However the reality is this, if you sign up to do this ride you need to understand a few very important things…

  1. 700 miles in 7 miles a days is extremely challenging for even the most advanced cyclist.
  2. Whether you do all 700 miles or 7 miles a day, it is about being out there, raising money, raising awareness and doing your personal best.
  3. No matter how much we raise or ride, the angels won’t come back, but the newly diagnosed ones are getting better treatment. Part of that is because of what we are doing.
  4. We ride together, we tough it out together, we laugh and cry together because when you have seen your loved one endure HLH, riding a bike becomes easy.
  5. And last but not least, safety is our utmost concern

If this story inspires you, motivates you, and excites you, take some time to watch the professional documentary and check out the links below.

Important Links