By Kathy Walsh
HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4)– On Saturday, May 20, two retirees will head out for a 60-day bicycle ride. They will cycle from coast to coast to raise money to fight a rare genetic disease. Their ride is a tribute to a Colorado family that endured more than its share of tragedy.
Steve Rice and Dave Kummer from Highlands Ranch are riding from Oregon to Maine for a special cause.
“Ken was my best friend,” said Rice.
Ken is Ken Atkinson, a beloved doctor from Centennial. In April 2016, Dr.”A” was killed while trying to help a neighbor who had been shot by her husband. The gunman and neighbor, Kevin Lyons, recently pleaded guilty to Atkinson’s murder.
CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh met Dr. Atkinson back in 2006. He was on CBS4, training for a marathon. He and daughter, Whitney, were running for the Atkinson’s two children, Kendall and Taylor, who both died from a rare blood disorder called Fanconi Anemia (FA).
FA can lead to bone marrow failure and cancer. The current median lifespan for a patient with FA is 33 years old. Though considered primarily a blood disease, FA may affect all systems of the body. Many patients eventually develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML) at a very early age. FA patients are extremely likely to develop a variety of cancers and at a much earlier age than patients in the general population.
Ken Atkinson and wife, Jeanne, started the Kendall and Taylor Atkinson Foundation (KATA) to find a cure. That is the reason Rice and Kummer are riding.
“It’s really to continue the legacy he (Ken Atkinson) started and all the great work he’s done,” said Rice.
The men will ride from Florence, Ore. to Popham Beach State Park in Maine, that’s 4,068 miles. It’s a 60-day, 12-state trek through several mountain ranges to raise awareness and money.
In some places, they will stay with families affected by FA. Each day of the ride is dedicated to a different FA patient.
“There will be days where 20 mph headwinds and we’ll be just fighting that the whole way and we’ll be like, “This is tough,’ but it’s, again, not as tough as what they have to go through,” said Kummer.
The men are pedaling in hopes of making progress in finding a cure for FA. The trek, called “Coast to Coast Ride for KATA” is a heartfelt tribute to a true friend gone too soon.
To donate to the Kendall and Taylor Atkinson Foundation (KATA), follow the riders as they cross America, and learn more about FA, visit the KATA Foundation website.