On the road
A group of Catasauqua residents and those with ties to the area will be fighting cancer as they take their bikes on a 540-mile ride next week.
Dennis Kelly and Debbie Gemmel of Catasauqua, Tom Nicklas of Whitehall, and Robert Docherty, of Allentown, and Don Wallace, of Schnecksville, are participating in the Pennsylvania Perimeter Ride Against Cancer (PPRAC) which will take them from Portland, Maine to Palmerton. Docherty and Wallace both have ties to Catasauqua.
The ride, held this year July 29-Aug. 3, was founded in 1983 by retired Allentown school teacher Bob Freed in an effort to raise money for cancer research.
Kelly, who serves as the Catasauqua High School head baseball coach, participated in his first PPRAC ride in 2009. Before his first ride, Kelly had never even owned a bike.
"I bought the bike in 2009, a month before the trip," said Kelly. "I hopped on it and learned how to ride."
Kelly said the ride for him is personal, as both his parents and brother and sister were victims of cancer. His mother and father died seven years apart from each other from the disease, both on May 22.
This year, he is riding in memory of Dale Edwards, a longtime CHS teacher and coach who died last summer after a battle with cancer. A logo on their rider jerseys will read "Catasauqua Area School District Fights Cancer in memory of Dale Edwards."
The bike ride experience, Kelly said, is one unlike any other.
"It's elation," he said of the ride. "It's more spiritual. It's just absolutely amazing. You accomplish something that not a lot of people can do."
Gemmel, who is a 1974 graduate of CHS, said she was convinced by Kelly to participate in the ride.
She said she will be riding for family and friends who have been stricken with cancer.
Although she is excited to participate in the ride, she said, with a smile on her face, "Right now, I'm very scared and anxious."
Nicklas, a 1985 graduate of CHS, said his ride will be devoted to his father who passed away from cancer Christmas Day 1999 and his mother-in-law, who is a breast cancer survivor.
"It started out as a bike ride, but it became so much more," said Nicklas. "Everyone has a story."
Kelly said credit also needs to be given to the group called Support Angels, led by Kathy Freed, wife of founder Bob Freed. The Support Angels are a group of individuals who go along on the bike ride and provide the riders with water, food and other necessities. Kelly also said the Skinner family provides a lunch to the riders each day and Mark Taylor, who works at the South Mountain Bike Shop in Emmaus, renders his services as a bike mechanic.
"Those two [Bob and Kathy Freed] are the heart and soul of the organization," Kelly said. "The best thing is, all the money goes to the American Cancer Society and Dream Come True," he said.
For more information on PPRAC, go to the organization's website at http://www.pprac.net/.