Written by: Ericka Leigh
By some accounts, a year is not a long time. To one of our recipients and the volunteer who brought him lunch every week, a year was all they needed.
JT lives in Carrollwood and has been receiving meals for about a year. One afternoon when receiving his lunch, JT noticed a bike rack on the back of the volunteer’s car. He asked about it and the two started chatting about biking and outdoor adventures. That bike rack brought back memories for JT as he recalled three cross-country bike trips from years ago – two from Seattle to Washington, D.C. in 1998 and ’99, the third from Tampa to D.C. in 2000. Collectively, JT was able to raise $30,000 for the American Lung Association through his cross-country bike trips.
A year after JT’s last bike tour, the Suncost Trail (a 42 mile trail which follows the Suncoast Expressway from Lutz Lake Fern Road in Hillsborough County to the top of Hernando County) opened. JT also shared with the volunteer that the builders of the Trail placed a plaque in his honor near the beginning of the trail; and the volunteer said he would look for the plaque next time he was there.
A few weeks later, and with a little help from the Parks Department, the volunteer found the plaque, only to discover that time and the elements have left it unrecognizable from when it was lain on the trail almost 20 years prior. The writing and artwork on the original plaque had been weathered away and overgrown with grass.
The volunteer talked with the Parks Department and they agreed to create a new plaque. In late April, the volunteer was able to show JT the new plaque that would replace the weathered one. “He was very grateful, and as you can see from the photos, very happy about the new plaque,” said the volunteer. He said he would take the plaque to the Parks Department where it will be installed to again honor JT and his ‘Big Ride(s) Across America.’
Because of the relationship this volunteer formed with JT, he wanted to do more than deliver just a meal. He wanted to do something else that would honor his extraordinary life and incredible adventures. The stories of biking across the country – not once, but three times – are inspiring to say the least. They inspired this volunteer. And while JT’s cross-country days are over, it was a pleasant jaunt down memory lane and a memory JT was happy to share.
This volunteer, able to relive these rides with JT, exemplifies the power of human connection and story telling, as well as the bonding power of sharing a meal.