Vickroy: Friends plan Momma Henry’s Trek across U.S.
By Donna Vickroy firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5982 May 23, 2012 9:50PM
The Henry brothers, David (left), 19, and Johnathon (right), 21, and friends Carlos Salgado, 20, and Guadalupe Fernandez, 20, hold one of the bicycles they will be riding cross-country in memory of the Henry brothers' mother, Antonia Henry, who died of lymphoma in 2011, in Tinley Park, Illinois, Tuesday, May 22, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Momma Henry’s Trek
For more information on Momma Henry’s Trek, visit mommahenrystrek.org or mommahenrystrekacross
america on Facebook. For more information on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, visit lls.org.
Updated: June 29, 2012 8:37AM
Antonia “Momma” Henry died in November after a yearlong battle with lymphoma. For many, her passing left a void as big as the United States is wide.
This summer, her sons David, 19, and Johnathon, 21, and three of their friends will attempt to fill that emptiness by riding their bicycles from San Francisco to Yorktown, Va. They’re hoping the 2,900-mile trek, over mountains and across plains, will bring healing as well as donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
By all accounts, Momma Henry was a spitfire. She raised five children, homeschooling all of them until they were ready to enter Eisenhower High School.
“She was always honest, genuine, kind of in your face, but in a good way,” David said. “That’s why people liked her so much. They could trust her.”
Momma Henry worked as a parent liaison at the Blue Island school, helping parents navigate the college admissions and financial aid systems.
David said after his mom was diagnosed with cancer, she underwent extensive radiation, chemotherapy and stem cell treatments, none of which would have been possible without the financial assistance of LLS.
“They helped pay my mom’s co-payments for medications and treatment,” he said.
He’d heard about other people touring the country on bikes and he thought that would be a fun way to give back. David, now a student at William and Mary College in Virginia, didn’t have to look far for companions. His girlfriend, Guadelupe Fernandez, 20, and his friend Carlos Salgado, 21, both Eisenhower grads who now attend Georgetown University, were onboard immediately. His brother, Johnathon, took a few months to warm up to the idea.
“I kept thinking I should get a job but David convinced me I had the rest of my life to work,” Johnathon said
Tanya Kempton, 52, the mother of a friend of the group, signed on just a couple of months ago.
So far, they’ve raised $9,300 and hope to pass the $10,000 mark.
The trip was first devised when Momma Henry was in remission last July. It was supposed to be just a fundraiser. It became a memorial as well when the matriarch died just a few months later.
“When I told my mom I was planning this trip, the first thing she said was, ‘No, you’re not,” David recalled. But as things started falling into place, he said, she grew proud that they would attempt something so crazy to help others.
The riders will fly to San Francisco next week and begin the journey east June 1. They’re hoping to hit the road each day by 8 and ride at 10 to 12 mph until about 5 p.m. They’ll rely on the kindness of strangers, who hopefully will provide some food and maybe warm lodging. If not, they’ll camp each night.
“We’re hoping to do some couching surfing. We’ve already checked warmshowers.com, a group that matches touring cyclists with people who will put them up for a night,” David said. Several businesses have donated gear.
“If all goes according to plan, we should arrive in Yorktown after 70 or 80 days,” David said.
That plan will be tested soon after they’re out of the gate. Their first 100 miles will be flat terrain. Then, they’ll hit the 8,600-foot incline known as Carson’s Pass.
They plan to stop in Blue Island around July 10. They’ll also blog regularly (mommahenrystrek.org).
Fernandez said this kind of adventure bonds friends forever.
David said, “I knew this would be the only chance I’d get to spend an entire summer with my brother and friends.”
His mom always wanted David and Johnathon to be best friends, he said. “Just like they are in the Bible.”
The trip is costing each rider about $3,000, including the cost of the bike, supplies and food.
“But all of the donations made to the website will go directly to LLS,” David said.
“We know times are tough and this isn’t the best time to take a summer off work, especially since we have student loans,” David said. “But when will we ever get the chance to do something like this again?”
When his mom was dying, Johnathon said, she didn’t look back on her life and wish she’d made more money.
“If she were here today, of course she’d be worried about our safety,” Johnathon said. “But she also valued adventure and knew how important it was to experience life.”