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updated: 7/3/2016 5:34 PM

New rider, same 3 Reasons for Barrington charity ride

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  • Bob Lee of Barrington, left, is passing the torch of his "Ride for 3 Reasons" cross-country bicycle treks to raise money for three charities on to 17-year-old Jan Gierlach. The Barrington High School student will graduate early in December so he can make the ride from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida next year.

      Bob Lee of Barrington, left, is passing the torch of his "Ride for 3 Reasons" cross-country bicycle treks to raise money for three charities on to 17-year-old Jan Gierlach. The Barrington High School student will graduate early in December so he can make the ride from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida next year.
    Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

  • Bob Lee, right, has made three cross-country bike rides to raise money for charity. Here he and fellow Barrington resident Amy Kenrich take a break from one of the rides to meet with Tour de France champion Greg LeMond.

    Bob Lee, right, has made three cross-country bike rides to raise money for charity. Here he and fellow Barrington resident Amy Kenrich take a break from one of the rides to meet with Tour de France champion Greg LeMond.
    Courtesy of Bob Lee

 

After reading Mitch Albom's book "Tuesdays With Morrie," Barrington resident Bob Lee was inspired to ride his bicycle across the United States.

In 2001, at the age of 58, he embarked on the first of his "Ride for 3 Reasons" to raise money for ALS and cancer research, as well as hospice care.

"A friend was diagnosed with ALS. I wanted to find significance in my life," he said.

Three rides and 12,000 miles later, Lee has raised $1.3 million for the causes.

It was after his second ride in 2007 that Lee made a presentation at Hough Elementary School in Barrington entitled "If you can dream it, you can achieve it."

In his audience that day was a 9-year-old boy who became inspired to follow in Lee's bicycle tracks.

Now that young man, Barrington High School student Jan Gierlach, is taking over for the 73-year-old Lee, and taking on the next "Ride for 3 Reasons" in February, making the trek from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida.

Both Lee and Gierlach, 17, were in downtown Barrington Sunday for the Rock the Ride family music festival to benefit the cause.

"I love the idea of a young person being inspired, taking the torch and making things happen. And he's going to inspire other young people," Lee said.

Gierlach, who is graduating early from Barrington High School in December so he can take on the ride beginning in February, is aware that this represents a passing of the torch, even though Lee has not ruled out another ride. He still vividly recalls Lee's speech at his elementary school more than eight years ago.

"Just the concept, when you're that young, of riding across the country, was so enchanting, and it really stuck with me," Gierlach said. "That seed that was planted all the way back then, really stuck with me up until my junior year of high school, when things started to get serious and I started looking at the logistics (of the ride)."

He went to his guidance counselor to receive advice about getting the credits to graduate early. Then he went to Lee seeking guidance about the journey.

Gierlach, who hails from a cycling family, is comfortable with the physical requirements of the ride. Lee has been guiding his mind toward the purpose.

When he reflected, Gierlach realized that Lee's reasons for riding dovetailed with his own. He lost a grandfather to lung cancer and a dear family friend to ALS. And not only did his grandmother receive hospice care, but his mother visits a hospice facility with a certified therapy dog.

"It just seemed like fate, so many years later, that the same three reasons he rode for were just as much my three reasons as they are Bob's," he said.

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