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‘They just haven’t quit’: Bike4Alz team perseveres to spread awareness for Alzheimer’s disease

Cameron Shaw
The Bike4Alz Team 12 rides down Russellville Road towards WKU on Monday.

A dozen men decked out in all-purple outfits pedaled down Russellville Road, their faces red from the humid Kentucky air. It had been over 48 days since they’d touched the Hill, and even though they’re back in Bowling Green, they still have 20 more days before their job is done.

In about 1,000 miles, these men can say that they trekked across the country, coast to coast, to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.

The Bike4Alz Team 12, a group of 12 WKU students that are also fraternity brothers in Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI), is raising awareness and donations for the study of Alzheimer’s disease, a memory loss disorder that is affecting nearly 7 million Americans today. The group started their journey on May 21 in San Francisco, and they have planned to bike over 3,000 miles to Virginia Beach, Virginia by July 28.

On Monday, as the formation of riders came out from under the railroad overpass that displays the WKU motto, “The Spirit Makes The Master,” a crowd of family members, friends and media cheered them on. Once they turned into Creason Lot, the men dropped their bikes and rushed to their supporters. Still covered in sweat, they hugged mothers, fathers and grandparents who were congratulating them on all that they have accomplished so far.

Along the way, the group stopped in towns and cities, setting up special events to explain the risks and effects of Alzheimer’s disease while also raising donations for continual research for the disease.

Tanner Redmon, a WKU junior and Bike4Alz team member, talks to a reporter after arriving at WKU on Monday. (Cameron Shaw)

“I’m doing this not only for myself but for all the people around me and all the people that will be affected by Alzheimer’s as well,” Tanner Redmon, a WKU junior and team member, told the Herald.

The team, which biked its first trek in the summer of 2010, was founded by former WKU student Tyler Jury after he witnessed how Alzheimer’s disease affected his grandfather, Barret Cummings. That experience pushed Jury and five of his fraternity brothers to begin a tradition of camaraderie and ambition that has grown over the years.

“I don’t think he’ll ever forget — I don’t think we’ll ever forget,” Samantha Redmon, Tanner’s mom, said while holding back tears. “I mean, I thought when he went to Nicaragua in high school that was big stuff, and now looking back I’m like, Nicaragua was preparing him for this.”

Samantha said that her son has had to navigate both the physical roads and the roads of his life because of this journey.

“I mean, they just haven’t quit,” she said.

Since the first ride in 2010, Bike4Alz has traveled about 40,000 miles and has raised over $500,000 for Alzheimer’s research.

“Each of us on the team have been directly affected by Alzheimer’s,” Redmon said.

Redmon said that his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about a year and a half ago.

“That’s the reason I got involved, and that’s the reason I’m still involved,” he said. “On those days that are tough, that’s what keeps you going.”

Creating and holding onto memories is important for many like Aziz Umarov, a member of the team and a fifth year senior at WKU. To be able to lose memories or to witness those that are losing memories, Umarov said, is unimaginable.

“It’s not about me,” he said, “That’s what pushes me, it’s like I take myself out of it, and I think about the other people who we’re doing this for.”

Umarov said that he hopes that those who see Team 12 don’t just scroll through their social media and think that what they’re doing is just “cool.”

“You’re in the trenches,” he said about the journey.

Umarov said that he wants people to develop a better understanding of the disease and its effects so that they can have compassion for all those affected by it.

Samantha Redmon said that she overheard a team member’s father talk about what this mission means for their lives.

“They left as boys; they’re coming home as men,” Samantha overheard the father say.

Along their trek, the team has organized events in the communities they ride through to further spread awareness about the disease and to raise donations.

This year, the team has partnered with a number of Bowling Green businesses to host a silent auction at the SOKY Marketplace on Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m., according to the team’s website. The entry fee is $10 with children’s entry being free, and there will be live music, food and games.

“You’re gonna get to talk to the guys on the team,” Redmon said about the event. “You’re gonna get to hear all the craziest stories (most of the crazy stories) that we’ve had on a trip.

The team tossed their bikes on the ground and went to embrace their family and friends after pulling into Creason Lot at WKU on Monday. (Cameron Shaw)

“So we’d love to see you guys out here and see some Bowling Greenians show out.”

The Bike4Alz Team 12 members are:

  • Connor Armstrong
  • Cavin Ashman
  • Dawson Bechman
  • Tanner Blood
  • Dave Darnell
  • Ryan Dilts
  • Kieran Heintz
  • Colin Loveless
  • Thomas Mitchell
  • Adam Pruitt
  • Tanner Redmon
  • Aziz Umarov

Those that wish to support the team can do so on their website.

News reporter Cameron Shaw can be reached at [email protected].

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