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Sioux Falls Set to Ride to Benefit Alabama Boy with Rare Disease

Gabe Griffin, a 9-year-old boy from Alabama, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare incurable disease which causes his muscles to waste away. On Saturday, his supporters will be in Sioux Falls to participate in the largest and oldest bike event in the world.

This Saturday in Birmingham, Ala., Gabe will board a plane with his brother Cooper and their mother Traci. The three of them are coming to Sioux Falls, where they will meet Gabe’s dad, Scott. This is the first time they have visited South Dakota and what they will do here is monumental.

Along with a team of two cyclists and two support staff, the group will take part in RAGBRAI – “The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.” Organized by The Des Moines Register, the west to east crossing of the state of Iowa is an annual event for over ten thousand cyclists.

For Gabe, future trips like this will become increasingly more challenging. Without further advancements in drug therapies, all of Gabe’s mobility will soon be restricted.

That cause is what brings this group together this weekend. The Griffin family and friends have launched Ride4Gabe, a campaign to create awareness for Gabe’s rare disease.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a genetic neuromuscular disorder caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep the muscles intact. The onset of this DMD occurs during early childhood. Without dystrophin, Gabe’s body over time will experience generalized weakness and muscle wasting.

Children with Duchenne between 10 and 12 years old are usually forced to start using a wheelchair. They lose their lives around the age of 20.

While recent medical advances have led to some very promising clinical trials to date there is no cure and no one has survived. Duchenne is fatal, primarily affecting 15,000 boys in America today.

Avid cyclist Michael Staley, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL6), and Aurora, Colorado, native and Indiana University student Wes Bates are actually making a trans-America trek on behalf of Gabe. The two helped form Ride4Gabe with high hopes of creating awareness and raising money for current DMD research.

Staley and Bates will arrive in Sioux Falls on Friday. They have now pedaled across Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Nebraska. Ride4Gabe recently surpassed the 1,500 mile mark, nearly halfway to their final destination back in Alabama. For now, they are in town needing replenishment of supplies, plus wanting to spread the word of Gabe’s hope and this awfully rare disease that afflicts too many Americans.

“It means so much to me that all the communities we have traveled through have welcomed us with open arms,” Scott Griffin said. “It really energizes all of us. People stop on the side of the road and give us whatever money they have in their pocket, simply because they are inspired by what these guys are doing for my son.”

Sioux Fall’s Midstates Imprinted Sportswear owner Sally Walters will present the Ride4Gabe team and Griffin family with commemorative t-shirts. The shirt’s message is simple, helping this group from Alabama engage people in meaningful conversations regarding DMD.

“I can hardly imagine the fight Scott and Traci must face everyday trying to save Gabe’s life,” said Walters. “I am honored to provide them with a message of hope, on behalf of all Dakotan s. I encourage others to give what they can to help Ride4Gabe have a successful outcome.”

Local bike shop owner Harlan Krueger heard about Ride4Gabe and wanted to help, as did nearby Spoke-N-Sport. The cyclist will make their way to Harlan’s Bike & Tour on Friday, and the community is invited to come show lots of support.

“RAGBRAI is a challenge for any cyclist wanting to accomplish a cross-state ride,” said Krueger. “These young men are crossing eleven states, and we are more than happy to support them. We hope they can bring Gabe in to the store and we can meet this inspiring little boy in person. They have our blessings.”

“As cyclists, we have a lot of respect for what Michael and Wes are doing, added Spoke-N-Sport owner Chad Pickard. “As parents, we are humbled by the Griffins and the challenges they face. We wish them well on their journey and hope that many others will take the time to learn about DMD.”

This Sunday, Ride4Gabe will indeed set out across Iowa with Gabe on board. The Griffins will travel with the caravan, and thousands of other cyclists, for one week before returning to Alabama.

Anyone interested in cycling alongside Staley and Bates, at any point in their trans-America ride, should contact Team R4G via Ride4Gabe’s Press Director.

The trek’s web site address is Ride4Gabe.com. They can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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