Health & Fitness News
Going the Distance: Biking 900 Miles, Raising $156k for Young Sandy Victim
(JEFFERSON, Ga.) -- Thanks to social media and an eight-time Ironman triathlete, the Halsteads of Winder, Ga., now have a support system that stretches across the country.
Bill and Stacy's son, Tripp, 2, suffered a traumatic brain injury in October during Hurricane Sandy when a tree limb hit him on the head as he played outside of his day care center. He was rushed to Barrow Regional Medical Center and then airlifted to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.
Defying the odds, Tripp survived the blow and began a long road of recovery.
"The doctors didn't expect any of this," Stacy told ABC News. "Every time there was a problem, they didn't expect him to survive."
To keep family and friends looped in on Tripp's progress, Stacy started the Tripp Halstead Updates Facebook page and that's how Kaete Nazaroff of Upper Nyack, N.Y., became aware of the family's struggles.
"It was random, I was on Facebook and a friend of mine had liked the Tripp Halstead page, so I decided to look and I couldn't get over the resemblance between Tripp and my son George," Kaete said. "I found myself unable to get this family out of my mind. This could have happened to me. This could have happened to any of us."
So she asked her husband, Dave, how long it would take him to ride his bike from New York, N.Y., to Jefferson, Ga., to raise money for the Halstead family. The two established Toga Multisport Ride to Give, during which Dave would journey an average of 180 miles for five days starting June 26.
"It started to become bigger than one family in New York helping a family in Georgia," Kaete said. "People were seeing how good it felt to be part of something like this."
As soon as Dave departed, donations started pouring in. Along the route, people appeared on the road waving signs, their kids in tow, some sporting "Team Boom" T-shirts designed for the charity bike ride with Tripp in mind.
As of Monday, the charity had raised $156,000 for the Halstead family.
"I was blown away by people's generosity," Dave said. "I'm just a guy riding his bike for a cause, for people to travel hours just to be on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere cheering me on, it was pretty overwhelming."
Toward the end of his journey, he was joined by more than 200 bicyclists and spectators, who cheered him on as he towed Tripp in a custom-made wagon for the final mile. The two families also met for the first time.
"It was overwhelming. I'm excited to be here and get to know them as people. To know that we're able to make a difference," Dave said. "To see the places I saw, you really get a true sense of what is going on in this country by going through the back roads and meeting these people."
Stacy, a bank teller, and Bill, a manager at Lowe's, can now afford to have her stay home with Tripp as he continues his recovery.
An in-house nurse tends to him and stretches him during the day. Stacy travels three times a week to therapy and water therapy sessions – with some therapists volunteering their time.
"We're in unique territory. Some days he goes backwards a little, but then he pulls ahead," Bill said.
"He blinks for yes. He will hold his eyes open and close his eyes really tight," Stacy said. "This has started in the last couple of weeks."
Last weekend, the family was in Surfside Beach, S.C., when Tripp started crying at night. When Stacy asked him whether he wanted to go outside with her, he responded "Yes." The two went outside and he stopped crying.
"He just wanted to be with everyone else," Stacy said. "He wants to be a part of your lives. It's like he's saying, 'I fought this hard, I want to be a part of it.'"
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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