January 31st is James “Jimmy” Prosser’s birthday. That is why, when riders pass by mile 131 on the second day of this year’s Tri-State Trek, they will see a sign with a picture of Jimmy and a short summary of his story. That mile, like so many others across the 270 miles that make up the Trek route, will be dedicated to a loved one who is living with – or, in Jimmy’s case, was lost to – ALS, as part of the Dedicate-a-Mile program.
Jimmy, a Marine Corps veteran, was diagnosed with ALS in April of 2019 at the age of 63. It was in the aftermath of his diagnosis that his daughter, Meghan Mania discovered the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI). Today, Meghan works for ALS TDI on our development team, but back then she was a new member of the ALS community searching for information when she came across the Tri-State Trek. Despite having little experience with long-distance cycling, having just given birth and a few months to train before the ride date, Meghan signed up herself, her sister Beth Janoske, and her sister’s then-boyfriend, now-fiancé Bill Johnston for the ride.
“My whole family thought I was crazy,” she remembers. “I was three months postpartum, I had been a surrogate and I had given birth to twins. And I looked at my sister and said ‘I signed us up yesterday.’ She looked at me like I had six heads, because the doctor told me it was going to take four to five months for me to recover. I said, ‘no, we're going to do it. It's going to be great.’”
Unfortunately, despite Meghan’s enthusiasm for taking on the ride despite the many challenges facing her, this was January of 2020. Within a few months the world had shut down in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that year’s Tri-State Trek was cancelled, eventually to be replaced by the “My-State Trek” virtual ride. Meghan still rode 270 miles and raised funds to support research at ALS TDI, but did so on her own, keeping track of her miles on Strava and participating in virtual rides.
In 2021, the Trek returned as a one-day, 100-mille ride. After a year as part of the ALS TDI community, she was excited to finally participate in a live, in-person event and get a taste of the Trek experience. It was this year she also learned about the Dedicate a Mile program, which allows members of the community to choose a mile of the ride to dedicate to a loved one. It’s a way to raise more funds for ALS research, honor someone who has passed or who is living with ALS, and help drive home why everyone, from riders to volunteers, participate in the effort to end ALS. Meghan and her family purchased mile 31 for Jimmy, who had passed in October of 2020.
“The whole ride, you need something to look forward to,” Meghan says. “It’s not easy to go 20 miles between rest stops. You need something that’s going to drive you. There was something about knowing that when we got to the next rest stop dad's picture was going to be there, it fuels you to keep going. And it meant other people were going to see it too, and learn a little bit more about Dad about our story. I just found it reassuring.”
This year, Meghan is returning to the Tri-State Trek, this time as a member of the ALS TDI team – she applied for a job on our Development Team right after the 2021 Trek, as did her soon-to-be brother-in-law Bill soon thereafter. Also returning to the ride will be Jimmy Prosser’s Dedicate-a-Mile sign, this time at mile 131, on the second day of the first full, 270-mile, three-day Trek since 2019.
“I’m excited to see it in its full form.” Says Meghan of what she’s looking forward to this year. “To get the whole experience of the Trek that we were hoping for in 2020, that we weren't able to have. To see more people because this year it's not limited in capacity.”
“For people considering the ride, I say just do it,” she continues. “If you don’t ride the whole 270 miles, there’s not one single person who’s going to shame you for it. Or volunteer, or dedicate a mile. Just participate in some way, because I think it’s a really, really nice community event.”
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