A Highland High School graduate will be on the road for five weeks and travel 4,280 miles to raise $20,000 for Parkinson’s research.
On Wednesday, Skip Bailey will begin the trip of his dreams when he rides his bicycle across the United States from Oregon to Virginia.
Bailey, 35, said he always wanted to ride across the nation, but it wasn’t until his father, Archer Bailey, 63, of Sharon Township, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years ago that he decided to commit to making the journey.
“When I had the opportunity, I was thinking I could take time off work, cycle across the country, and help my dad,” the 1992 Highland grad said.
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder caused by the loss of nerve cells that secrete dopamine. There are numerous side effects: tremors, slowness of movement and difficulty with balance. About 1.5 million Americans have the disease, according to the National Parkinson Foundation.
Bailey, currently a resident of West Palm Beach, Fla., is no stranger to traveling. He’s a producer of horse show jumping events.
Bailey said he is braving the cross-country journey to bring attention to Parkinson’s research — and raise at least $20,000 for the cause.
“I’ve never ridden for (charity) before, but with everything that happened with my dad, now I have a cause and want to go forward with it,” Bailey said.
Thus far, he has raised more than $4,500, all of which goes to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, an organization founded by the actor to find a cure for Parkinson’s. Fox was diagnosed with the disease in 1991.
Like Fox, Bailey said he wants to do anything he can to help fund Parkinson’s research.
“Michael J. Fox is a star who has brought a lot of attention to the disease,” he said. “I don’t have that kind of power, but I can get people interested.”
Bailey’s trip is partially sponsored by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, the aviation company his father worked for before he was among 11,000 employees fired after union negotiations went sour in 1981. Otherwise, Bailey is putting his own money up to sponsor the trip.
He is following the trail of Lewis and Clark, departing from Astoria, Ore., and ending at Yorktown, Va. The route is mostly back roads with no interstates, he said.
His father will accompany him, riding ahead in a car with Bailey’s fiancée to bring attention to the cause before Skip rides through. His mother, Cindy, will stay at home in Sharon.
Bailey said he’s not sure whether his bike or his body will hold up, and inclement weather could present several challenges, but “that’s part of the adventure.”
“It’s a big challenge I’m getting myself into, but I’m up for it,” he said.
Bailey will update his blog throughout the trip. Donations to the Michael J. Fox Foundation also can be made at his blog: http://coasttocoastforpd.blogspot.com/.
Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.