May 18, 2007
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
'Brian's Ride' shows power of compassion
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. − Brian McCandless made his mother cry. And his sister. And lots of strangers, too.
It happened on a busy Pittsburgh street as a cold rain fell, amid cheers and applause. "Thank you everybody, it's finally here. I'm just super psyched to get on the bike," McCandless said, climbing atop his bike and adjusting his yellow sunglasses.
Everything flowed, especially the tears, as the Slippery Rock University freshman embarked this week on his 2,000-mile bicycle trek to Florida to raise public awareness of cystic fibrosis. A horde of relatives, media and "Brian's Ride" supporters in blue T-shirts flinched as he pedaled past Children's Hospital to begin his first 100-mile day.
"It's all in God's hands," his mother Debbie McCandless said.
McCandless has been defying odds all his life as one of the 30,000 Americans born with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening respiratory disease. Instead of accepting limitations, Brian organized his ride to raise awareness of possibilities and inspire hope for other CF families.
"I wanted others to see that I haven't allowed cystic fibrosis to win," said McCandless, a 20-year-old physical SRU education major from West Sunbury. "The life expectancy used to be 13 or 14. Now it's 37. We don't have to let this beat us."
Brian's father, Bruce McCandless, and Steve Roberts, SRU director of Outdoor Adventures, rode along for the first 85 miles.
A support van is following McCandless with supplies, providing a backup place to sleep in case prearranged stopovers at churches or motels fall through.
"Brian is the ultimate example of what a person with CF can accomplish," said David Orenstein, MD, director of a cystic fibrosis center at Children's Hospital and McCandless' physician. "I think anyone who knows Brian isn't all that surprised. He's a terrific young man and a terrific example for anybody, but especially for someone out there with cystic fibrosis who feels they might be limited."
McCandless said he conceived of the trip after his doctor asked him to speak to a family whose child had just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
"I understood that my doctor wanted the distraught parents to see that I have not allowed CF to control my life," he said.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.