Welcome to our site, PedalingForAPurpose.com. My name is Keith Harris, and by now you probably know that I am cycling across America. This has been a dream of mine for years. Allow me to give you a brief (well, brief for me, anyway) background - context, if you will - to help you understand more fully what I am doing - and why.
A few years ago, I became seriously ill - so ill that at one point Christina and I weren't sure that I would recover. When I arrived at the Emergency Room of Anna Jaques Hospital, all of my organs had shut down. After nearly a week of intensive treatment the doctors determined that the problem lay in my heart - a staff infection had destroyed my mitral valve. Having been stabilized at Anna Jaques, I was transferred to Mass General Hospital in Boston. I required open heart surgery followed by several months of recovery.
I remember very clearly laying on my bed, the morning of my surgery, thinking that I wasn't quite ready to be done with this life. I also remember during my illness, and the recovery, an immense outpouring of support from family and friends. To have so many people reach out and support you is humbling, to say the least. Yet without that support, I do not know how we would have made it.
This chapter left an indelible mark on my life. During my time at Mass General Hospital, I was surrounded by people in similar dire straights. Some of them were facing it alone. One was too young to understand what he was going through. I felt at times guilty, being surrounded by so much love. I emerged from my illness with an awareness of just how many advantages I have in life, and discovered a newfound sense of purpose. I determined that I would do my best to live every moment to its fullest, to make sure that I would never settle for just taking up space in this life. And to reach out to those who for whatever reason are not surrounded by so many blessings. God did not bring me through that so that I could live my life out comfortably as a couch potato!
I found myself taking once again to my bike, the same one which I rode across the country the year before marrying Christina, my wife of 20 years. Cycling is not simply great excercise - it is so much more. A great way to get outdoors, see your community, stay in shape, see new things and meet interesting people. You can head out after work and pedal away the stress of the day, let your mind wander unfettered, with the breeze in your face, and push yourself as hard as you want. You can smell the sweetness of a honeysuckle bush long before you see it, and hear the buzz of the bees as you ride by.
As I started to pile on the miles again, I began to dream of doing something big, something like riding across America, to celebrate my new lease on life. I set as my first step to compete in a triathalon. Those of you who know me understand how little I enjoy running, so I don't know WHERE this idea came from. But - I have always enjoyed setting lofty goals that are just beyond reach, so I began training. I was finally able to complete one last fall. In fairness to true triathletes, this was a miniature version. And I still barely finished the quarter mile swim. But my goal was to finish - and I did. Suffice it to say that the front runners were never threatened by me! :)
As I continued to prepare for the big trip, Christina and I wanted to put the trip to good use - to turn all those miles into something that would positively impact others. I wanted to ride with a purpose - something more magnanimous than simply being glad to be alive. Christina and I have long been Rotarians, and so are setting out to raise $25,000 for the Rotary Foundation. Some readers may be familiar with this charity, many may not. Therefore, I will do my best to share a bit of our enthusiasm on the Foundation page. In short, each year, the Rotary Foundation improves the lives of tens of thousands of people on every continent in the world.The Rotary Foundation has also raised nearly a billion dollars towards the eradication of Polio - a herculean effort that was spearheaded by Rotary back in 1985.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to the doctors and staff at Anna Jaques. The level of care I received was every bit as professional as the care I received at Boston's MGH. In fact the doctors at MGH commented favorably on the work done at AJ. For this reason, I am also hoping to raise $2,500 for Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport.
I must also take a moment to thank my wife for this opportunity. Its bad enough that I will be leaving my best friend behind for two months. But it also means the full burden of running our business, Choice Graphics, falls on her for the duration. That's a whole lot of additional stress! Knowing that, she has been incredibly supportive as we plan this trip. As I said often during my illness - there are some decisions in life you want to get right. Choosing the person with whom you will share your life tops that list - and I could not have chosen better!
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for your interest in our trip!