Going the extra 3,100 miles: Dad, son in cross-country cycling race for causes about fathers

This Father's Day promises to be a special one for Barrington-area resident David Hirsch.

Hirsch, 62, is a member of a four-man cycling team pedaling 3,100 miles from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis, Maryland, to raise funds for his 21st Century Dads Foundation, an Illinois-based not-for-profit.

Hirsch's son Charlie will be supporting his dad as a member of the crew, so it promises to be a special, albeit grueling, Father's Day.

The goal is to raise $150,000 for the foundation, which calls attention to the issue of absentee fathers and supports fathers rearing children with special needs.

Hirsch, who works in financial services, is the host of the Dad to Dad podcast on the Special Fathers Network, the foundation's signature program that's a dad-to-dad mentoring program. Some of the kids are featured on the podcast.

“We're trying to shine a bright light on the positive things that are going on in families,” Hirsch said. “We're trying to tell these stories from a dad's perspective so that there's more dads that show up not just financially but physically, emotionally and spiritually for their kids.

“There are way too many kids growing up in father-absent homes. The estimate is one out of every 10 in America. And we can do better,” he said.

Hirsch is not a father of a child with special needs. He has five adult children ranging in age from 26 to 33. The oldest has two children.

However, having been reared by a single mom, he is keenly aware of the importance of having a dad around.

“If we can do only one thing as a society as it relates to this issue, we can get dads actively involved in their children's education,” he said. “All the research from the U.S. Department of Education supports it. When both parents are involved, all the educational outcomes go up.”

His Dads Honor Ride team is competing against 10 other four-member teams in the 41st annual Race Across America.

Hirsch's group embarked on the one-week odyssey Saturday. In addition to the four riders, there are 12 crew members and three vehicles — two support vans and an RV that will be used mainly for recuperation.

Among the teams are those from Germany and Brazil. A member of Hirsch's team is from Poland.

Hirsch said the German team consists of mostly octogenarians. His goal is to at least beat them.

Riders will head out in teams of two and switch every 30 minutes. They'll rest every four hours.

Hirsch said each state poses its own challenge: in Arizona, it's the heat; in Colorado, the elevation; in the Great Plains, the wind. “As long as we're safe and injury-free, that's the most important thing,” he said. “This is a fundraiser. We're not trying to prove anything. Two guys are in their 50s. One guy is 47. We're athletic. We're not athletes.”

Charlie, who lives in Chicago, said his dad has been an important part of his life — “someone who can lead by example” and “someone to ask advice of and lean on.”

The 21st Century Dads Foundation also has meetup groups for dads, an annual conference and a series of audiobooks covering such topics as rare diseases and dealing with the death of a child with special needs.

“Some of the best parenting I've witnessed are parents, moms and dads raising children with special needs,” he said.

The Dads Honor Ride team at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, en route to California to begin their race. They are, from left, Zane Kuecks, Charlie Hirsch, Don Stadler, Irith Chaturvedi and David Hirsch. Courtesy of David Hirsch
Irith Chaturvedi, Charlie Hirsch and David Hirsch in Arizona on their way to Race Across America. Courtesy of David Hirsch
David Hirsch, 21st Century Dads Foundation founder and Dads Honor Ride cyclist.
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