BOCA RATON, Florida, April 6, 2020 – Walking along Massachusetts Ave in Washington, D.C. to an event in which I promised my editor I would sit far away from other attendees, I could not have foreseen how swiftly my life would change – along with the rest of the country.
Within days I was ordered to evacuate my university housing amid rising coronavirus concerns, and drive nearly 15 hours to my family’s home in Boca Raton, Florida.
Instantly I was working remotely and attending class online while social distancing. But despite the sudden isolation, one thing remained dependable and beautifully stagnant in my life—kind human beings who overdeliver in times of struggle.
This brings me to one such human being, a family friend, Joshua Ladle. For the last year, Josh planned and organized a solo bike ride down the entire east coast of Florida to raise funds and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
In 2017, my older brother, Ian, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. His diagnosis came as an utter shock.
I postponed my next semester at Brigham Young University to return to Boca and take care of him during chemotherapy.
I dreaded the bimonthly drives to chemotherapy, while my brother sat in solemn silence. Watching his once athletic body diminish and his demeanor turn sullen became a dark and heavy chapter for my family.
Josh came by regularly to take Ian to a local sandwich joint. He always came back lighthearted and smiling from his outings with Josh, a glimpse of the pre-chemo persona I dearly missed. While my brother avoided visitors during this time, Josh persisted.
In the wake of coronavirus, Josh decided to go ahead with the bike ride for lymphoma.
Hotels could not donate rooms along the route due to mass cancellations, and family members could not travel to support him for fear of exposure to the virus.
Last week Josh completed the 565-mile bike ride along the east coast of Florida in 60 hours. He rode in honor of my brother and in memory of his beloved friend, Duben Wilde, who passed away after battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Along the path, he encountered road blockades discouraging gatherings or beach activity and emotional and physical exhaustion.
“There were definitely some low moments,” said Josh. “When you’ve been riding through the night, it can be challenging, like mentally and also physically,” he recalled.
At times in his exhaustion from expended calories, his body shut down and resisted nourishment.
With 100 miles left to get to Boca, where Josh planned to rest for only six hours before finishing the ride, his friend Joey showed up to bike alongside him.
He said Joey saved the day. Josh called Joey’s companionship and encouragement in the ride an “answer to prayer.” By the time they arrived in Boca, Josh had already been awake and biking for well over 24 hours, but he continued with an unfettered commitment to his goal.
On March 27, in the late afternoon, Josh reached Key West, where restaurants and hotels were closed and empty. Even though the ride turned out differently, the sparse streets created a safer and almost surreal environment.
While the world continues the fight against a global pandemic, that has left many feeling isolated, ordinary people keep our communities connected through quiet feats of extraordinary good.
Follow the link to a short video of Josh’s ride.
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