PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Mark Linder is getting ready for a bicycle ride unlike any other.
“A lot of people have expressed a lot of surprise, and a lot of, ‘Holy cow, it sounds impossible,'” Linder said.
Next Friday, the Paw Paw man will embark on an amazing journey. Starting in Chicago and ending in California, he plans to ride his bike on or along the entirety of legendary U.S. Route 66. That’s nearly 2,500 miles.
As incredible as the feat may be, the reasoning behind it is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
“Our youngest, his name was Kevin. And when he was 2, almost 3 years old, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer,” Linder explained.
Kevin fought it for 3 1/2 years and even beat cancer twice, but the third time was just too much. He died in 2013 at just 6 years old.
“His strength was just incredible,” Linder said. “We asked him several times during this process, ‘Hey you know, we can stop fighting now. We can give you some medicine that will help you feel better and you won’t have to worry about it.’ And his answer was always, ‘No I want to keep fighting. I want to keep going.'”
Now, Mark will use his son’s fight as motivation as he sets off on the grueling trek. His journey will raise money for other families going through a similar situation.
Donations will go to DC Strong, a pediatric cancer organization that supports families with children who have cancer, and CureSearch, a children’s cancer research group.
“If this is actually able to help anybody else, (it’s) 100 percent worth it,” Linder said of the ride.
His family will be with him along the way, driving a support camper to each destination. Most importantly, his son Kevin will be there too — in spirit.
Cars, a Disney movie based on Route 66, was Kevin’s favorite film. The Linder family wanted to make the drive years ago, but Kevin’s treatments wouldn’t allow.
Now, his father is finally getting that chance.
“I’m hopeful that he would be a little bit proud, and I think that he’d be happy. I think he’d wanna ride with me for sure,” Linder said. “I think he’d be there pedaling his little heart out right next to me.”
Linder is hoping to raise $10 for every mile, a total goal of nearly $25,000. The trip will ideally last a little more than a month, as he wants to reach Santa Monica by July 20.
His progress can be monitored and donations can be made on the Ride 2 End Pediatric Cancer’s website.