“It felt like you were my brother”

Caleb and Phil; photo credit: John Martin of Team Type 1

An event in Central Park to raise awareness for diabetes? Sure, let me check my schedule. It includes a bike ride with Phil Southerland and Team Type 1?! Clear the calendar; we’re there!

That’s exactly how it went. I gave no thought to logistics nor did I consider what the ride would entail. I just knew I wanted my family to be there for this unique opportunity.

I have two sons: an eleven year old aspiring triathlete, and an eight year old who loves to ride his bike and is living with diabetes. I also have a six year old daughter, who is very supportive of her older brothers and their ambitions.

Had I given it any thought, I might have considered that Central Park is not exactly flat and although Caleb has ridden his bike in the road for hours at a time, he’s never done anything remotely close to a four-mile, non-stop trek.

But I didn’t give it any thought. At least nothing beyond that Caleb might get to meet Phil again and if any of us couldn’t cut it, then we would stop. No big deal.

That’s not at all how the ride went.

Colin and Caleb had personal Team Type 1 escorts around the entire course. Thankfully no one buddied up with me. I thought my years of biking in my younger life would mean I would be the front runner of my family. I was left in the dust. Way back in the dust. I was grateful that my kids had responsible adults with them since I was not. I was even more grateful that no one was matched up with me because that would have been embarrassing.

Colin; photo credit: John Martin of Team Type 1

John Martin was the gracious team member who took the initiative to stay with Colin. Caleb had the honor of taking the ride with none other than Phil himself.

It was a gorgeous day. Perfect for a bike ride. There were lots of riders and pedestrians in Central Park.

At every turn in the road, I looked for something recognizable to let me know we were back to where we started. Turn after turn and hill after hill, there was no end in sight. Then finally, I saw the blue balloon attached to Caleb’s bike. It was pulled over to the side. I saw Colin and John. I thought, “Yippee, we’re done!”

But then I realized something was wrong. Phil was huddled with his arm around Caleb. I realized Caleb was crying and his leg was bleeding. Then I saw his hands were bleeding. He was scratched up, but okay. Phil was with him.

The first thing I remember Caleb saying was to Phil, “I’m sorry I broke your bike.” I realized John was right next to me holding half of Phil’s bike up with a bit of a shrug.

I mentioned that Colin is an aspiring triathlete. He had the honor of partaking in a triathlete camp this summer with Ironman, Cliff Scherb. He has a dream of getting a bike like Cliff’s. Right now that’s all it is: a dream. Those things are expensive. I knew Phil’s bike was of that caliber.

Phil’s concerns, however, were only for Caleb. Apparently some pedestrians cut in front of them. They both swerved to avoid them, but there weren’t enough places to go. Caleb turned into Phil’s back wheel and they crashed.

We were almost at the end. Caleb and I walked the rest of the way. We had all taken a wrong turn, so it ended up being closer to six miles than the planned four.

Lila had a respectable showing even if she didn't finish.

Despite the crash, it was a great day. We thought we would take a ride with others in the spirit of awareness, but it ended up being so much more. It’s a day none of us will forget.

Phil, thank you for sharing yourself and your story with us.  Thank you for showing my children they can do anything they set their minds to. Thank you for being kind and gracious; for setting such a gentlemanly example for my boys to follow. Thank you, Phil, for staying with Caleb and for pushing him up those hills. There is no way he could have done it without you. He is so proud to have completed the ride and for having you at his side.

John, thank you as well for staying with Colin and encouraging him. It would have been a bit of a bummer if he had to stay back with me. I’m so grateful you were there to allow him to go at his own speedy pace. You too were so gracious and kind to all of us. I can never thank you enough for the pictures. They are priceless.

We have had the privilege of meeting several Team Type 1 team members. They are all, without exception, inspirational athletes.  But perhaps more impressive to me is the exceptional caliber of people they are. They are top-notch, genuinely sincere, kind people.

Caleb wrote a thank you note to Phil. In it he says, “When you were with me it felt like you were my brother.”

That just sums it all up.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read Phil’s book, Not Dead Yet. His perseverance, courage and positive attitude are infused into to as you read it.

I also encourage you to read this recent interview with him mom, Joanna. There’s no question her strength and never-give-up attitude were a great influence to Phil.

Credit: New York Daily News

Lastly, here’s an article in the New York Daily News which is primarily an interview with Phil about the bike ride in Central Park but also includes a few words from yours truly.

Keep riding, or walking or whatever you do.  As Phil says, we’re all busy and it’s hard to make time for it, but when you consider that excercise adds years to your life, we really have nothing but time for it.

19 Replies to ““It felt like you were my brother””

  1. Beautiful story, great memories. I’m really annoyed I was not able to make it in for that event.

  2. This is SO very wonderful Lo! What a memory of a lifetime for Caleb! It just reinforces that our kids can do anything, and it’s wonderful when they have mentors who are not only great at what they do, but are nice people too.

  3. lorraine, this post is making me cry! a beautiful expression of an amazing experience. how wonderful for caleb and colin, and the rest of you, to have those memories.

    caleb’s note is so precious. the DOC is a family. there was a lot of discussion about that this weekend at simonpalooza. instant family.

    love you guys!

  4. I just was saying this weekend that I was waiting for you to post about the bike ride.

    I think Caleb’s letter is a testament to the love and support of the diabetes community, but also a compliment to Colin. Growing up, if I had ever compared anyone to my brother, it would not have been a good thing.

  5. what an awesome opportunity. our whole family (adults) have read his book and all got very inspired, it is amazing what you feel you can do once you read his story about all that he went through and not just with diabetes, but he’s definitely got a fighting spirit.
    I love that you guys did the bike ride together, we’ve really gotten into the sport, too – it is just such a great way to be together and experience the landscape around you that you might not otherwise notice 🙂

  6. what an amazing experience, thank you for filling the story out behind those fantastic photos. totally inspirational, all the way around. 🙂

    (i recently walked in a jdrf fundraiser by L’s school that was 6 miles long, so i feel ya! kind of!)

  7. What an experience! I loved reading all about it. I smiled through the whole post. I bet years from now your family will still be talking about this day. 🙂

  8. I love you, your family, and your inspirational stories Lo. Thanks for sharing and encouraging us all to live life to it’s fullest.


  9. I can’t believe you guys made the Daily News! That’s incredible!! This was a very touching post, to say the least. (I actually read it the other day but am just now getting around to commenting) Even though it didn’t turn out as you had thought, it still sounds like it was a priceless opportunity for your whole family. And it was so nice to finally meet you and the gang in real life 🙂

  10. What a fantastic story Lorraine! Thank you for sharing. As if it were possible to be more impressed with Team Type 1, I am. We’re hosting Jerry Willis here in Huntsville on World Diabetes Day. I cannot wait to meet him. Thank you for sharing this story and the photos!

  11. I am late on this, but just wanted to say that I’m so glad you and the boys were able to have that experience. I’m glad it was fun, despite the fall!!

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