Posted on October 28, 2013
My Favorite Place to Be
By: Jack Van Houten
JettRider: 2011, 2012 and 2013
As I skidded across the dirt trail, I could feel the skin on my knees slowly rip open. My last two falls had landed me in the hospital, first with a major concussion and then with four broken bones in my hand, but this one was minor. I only felt pain from dusting the dirt and pebbles out of my open wound. The crash would remain in my head, taunt me, but nothing could take me away from my favorite place in the world: The JettRide.
Sitting on the ground, I rested my legs. I had already ridden twenty miles that morning and was still thirty more from my destination. Despite my pain and exhaustion I was content, almost joyful. The JettRide, a fifteen-member bicycle tour intended to raise money and awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, challenged me and forced me to adapt to all sorts of situations. I was hundreds of miles from home with no means of travel besides my dirt-covered Trek bicycle.
Although I do love biking, my fourteen-year-old brother, Kyle, was the real reason I was on the JettRide. Kyle was born with Duchenne and because of it has trouble walking and cannot run, jump or play any sports; if there’s one thing my brother loves, its sports. This horribly ironic situation is what introduced me to the JettRide. So in July of 2011 I bought a shiny white bike and flew to Minnesota to start the thirty-day, 1500-mile ride.
After my short rest I got back on my bike and hit the road. The last thirty miles went by quickly. The bright green rolling hills of Ohio distracted me from all thoughts of time. At around four-thirty, the JettRide rolled into Curtis, Ohio as a team. The Henegar family, a family affected by Duchenne just like mine, greeted us and hosted us for the night. The youngest member of the Henegar family, Braedan, was six years old and had just been diagnosed with Duchenne the year before. He was a skinny kid with blond hair and blue eyes; he looked just like my brother did at that age. Braedan had a great personality and could easily make all the JettRiders smile. We took him go-carting, snake hunting and out for ice cream. We all had a great time but when it was time for us to leave Braedan started crying. He crawled up into his mom’s arms and said, “I wish this could last forever.” At that moment I realized how special of an environment the JettRide was. At all times there were fifteen people trying to give a boy, with a disease that prevents him from walking like his friends, a day completely devoted to him. When the JettRide was at my house, my brother was happier than I had ever seen him. To me that is something very meaningful.
On the JettRide I was able to meet over thirty other families coping with muscular dystrophy. As I played, cooked, ate, cleaned up and slept with the families I realized how similar they all were to my own. Within hours of leaving each family’s home I would start missing them. Remembering the pure happiness of each kid’s smile pushed me through the long days of biking and to the next family’s home.
The JettRide showed me that my family is not alone in our situation. I have met families from eight different states dealing with the same problems. In the time since the 2011 JettRide, I have participated in two more and raised over $25,000 in support of research that will hopefully cure Duchenne. There is truly no other place I would rather be than on the JettRide.