For every mile Paul "Bubba" Modoono bikes, his friends Jon O'Connor and Richard Bentley will be riding with him in spirit. Bentley and O'Connor, who are confined to wheelchairs, became quadriplegic after suffering a spinal cord injury. Inspired by their condition, Modoono has embarked on a coast-to-coast bicycle trip to the four corners of the United States to raise money for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to curing spinal cord injury and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis. Paul has crossed the Appalachians and the plains of Ohio and Indiana, and is now in Chicago.
Modoono, 44, a longtime Lexington, Mass. resident, is no stranger to endurance races. Having completed the Ironman, many marathons and bicycle road races, he is familiar with the kind of training it takes to complete a long distance athletic event. But after doing a dry run in Lubec, Maine, the starting point of his trip, Modoono realized this trip is nothing like anything he's done before. "It's been tough so far. I've encountered some rough weather and the hills are hard," he said. "But life rolls on -- that's the motto of the Christopher Reeve Foundation and that's a motto of mine."
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Modoono will bike from Lubec, the easternmost point of the continental U.S., to Sumas, Wash., the northernmost point, to Washington's Olympic Peninsula, the westernmost point, then down the coast of California and east to Key West, Fla., the southernmost point. Along the way, Modoono will meet with people living with spinal cord injuries and their caretakers. Modoono said he has 25 stops planned so far in 20 states, including all the Christopher and Dana Reeve Neuro Recovery Network Centers and other rehab centers.
"I'm trying to spread hope for them to tell them there's someone out there working for you," he said. "I see it in their eyes, there's desperation there. Hope is hard to hang on to. Asking for donations along the way, Modoono's goal is to raise $200,000 for the Reeve Foundation. "If I could come up with $200,000, I'd feel like a hero," he said. "I know it's a tall order … but if it was easy it wouldn't be worth doing."