Henry Edmonds, a former board member of the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter, remembers his father-in-law. “He was a very outgoing person,” Henry says. “He was very active in the church, acting as a member of the deacon board and singing in the choir.”
A now-retired pastor, Henry, has been cycling with his son for years. When he heard about a cycling event that was taking place from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia — a 150 mile ride to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease — he and his son jumped at the opportunity. Losing his father-in-law to the disease several years earlier, this natural fit for fundraising was immediately attractive. “It was the longest ride we had ever done,” Henry says. After a successful ride, Henry knew that there was a way to make a difference in his local community.
The Longest Ride is born
“After doing [our first ride], I decided I could start my own fundraiser, so we started a ride here for the Alzheimer’s Association and The Longest Day.” He called the fundraiser The Longest Ride, and created a 55-mile course along the Neuse River Trail built for cyclists of all experience levels. The local The Longest Ride honors his father-in-law and his wife as her father’s primary caregiver, remembering their journey. After his father-in-law was diagnosed, Henry and his wife reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association, and received the resources and support they needed to navigate his diagnosis. “We knew nothing,” Henry says. “We got involved so we could learn about the symptoms and what happens to the person living with the disease and the people caring for them. It’s a traumatic impact on the whole family.”
Henry’s fundraiser ride here in North Carolina has grown into quite the event. In 2019, the course had a 30-mile route and a 54-mile route. At the end of the day, all riders and volunteers gathered for free food and a special awards ceremony, and all riders who complete the course received a medal. Not only do they raise awareness on the day of the ride, they also charged an entry fee and ask for donations leading up to the event to raise funds for the cause. “I know the impact that Alzheimer’s has in terms of what a family goes through,” Henry says. “I also know the kind of research that is going on across the country and the world, and I know that researchers need the money we raise through The Longest Ride.”
The Longest Ride in a pandemic
Henry and organizing committee took 2020 off to focus on the growing concerns around COVID-19, and to plan how the ride could be hosted in a new format. As the world continued to distance and recover, Henry re-imagined his The Longest Ride into a brand new concept to meet the need of keeping participants safe. Participants in the 2021 The Longest Ride will ride in their own separate communities and log mileage between May 15th and June 19th — many riders have already begun collecting donations. Since this year’s ride is taking place in each individual’s community, participants can literally be from anywhere. The riders’ accumulated miles will win prizes for 1st-3rd place. An official Mileage Tracking Form will be emailed to the ride captains or delivered in-person, socially distanced on June 19th at Anderson Point Park in Raleigh. Riders are also invited to join Henry on June 19th to ride around the park, although he cautions that there won’t be the same sort of logistical support that he has provided in the past (lunch, hydration, etc.).
Road warriors and casual cyclists alike are invited to join The Longest Ride. You can create your own team for the ride OR join the team captained by Henry and Chuck Cosgrove, Team Long Riders.
WE ALL HAVE A REASON TO GET MOVING IN THE FIGHT FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Start planning your own The Longest Day Fundraiser today.
The day with the most light is the day we fight! On The Longest Day, thousands of participants from across the world will come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice. Together, they will use their creativity and passion to raise funds and awareness for the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association®. Whether participating at home, online or in-person, we have plenty of fun ideas to engage family and friends in The Longest Day. Join the fun today!