Although we here at the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI) have had to make the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Tri-State Trek due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re offering both longtime supporters and people new to the Trek family the opportunity to participate in a new, socially-distant version of the event, that we’re calling the My-State Trek.
Participants are invited to participate on their own by using a stationary bike or indoor bike trainer, or by riding outdoors and practicing social distancing while virtually tracking their miles and raising money for ALS research. This year runners, walkers, and anyone else, will also have an opportunity to log mileage and make fundraising commitments to help the fight to end ALS.
As we prepare for our socially distant ride, we’re talking to some longtime riders about how they’re approaching the virtual My-State Trek. Today we’re joined by Aubrey Riccardi Wickersham, a member of Team MacaRena and the Rina Coladas, who will be (virtually) riding in her third Trek this year.
Aubrey, first off, can you tell us a little bit about your history with ALS TDI and the Tri-State Trek?
ARW: Our mother, Rena, was diagnosed with ALS in 2017, and in doing research and looking at things online, we came across the ALS TDI web site and the Tri-State Trek. My family and I, we've always been into bike riding. My parents both rode a lot, my brothers and I ride, so we thought this would be the perfect thing to get involved with. This year would have been our third Trek. My mom was around for the first one we did. She was at the finish line and everybody got to meet her.
She passed in March 2019. So, we did [ride the trek] last year, which was really hard, but we did it because she would have wanted us to. She was sick for about two years, so it was pretty quick. But she really enjoyed doing the Trek. It was something she actually got to be at. So, it was important for us to keep doing it.
What are your plans for this year’s My-State Trek?
ARW: We were obviously disappointed this year with everything going on. I'm glad they continued to do something. And, you know, it's hard to get donors and ask people for money during this situation. A lot of people we know lost jobs and had salary cuts and all that kind of thing. So, we've been trying to be a little creative.
On Mother's Day we're doing a boozy 5K, and we've been posting it everywhere on Facebook. And what I belong to a running club. As of this morning, I think there was like 30 something people that are going to participate. We asked everybody just to make a $20 donation to our team, and we're going to have a cocktail, run a 5K, and then followed up with another cocktail. And then my brothers and I and a couple of friends are going to do long bike rides that same weekend of the originally planned Trek (June 19-21, 2020), because we want to keep that weekend special.
What are you most excited for about this year’s virtual Trek?
ARW: I think we get to involve more of our family and friends, which I think is great because not everybody can drop everything and go to Connecticut or Boston for the weekend. Not everybody rides or can ride that kind of distance. So, because it's virtual, you can be anywhere. I think we have a lot more people involved. They can run. They can jump rope. My kids can go ride their scooters or bikes different distances.
I think that's important because a lot more people are becoming aware of ALS and what they do and I think it gets you on the map a little bit more because it's a broader base of people that can participate. That couldn't get to that weekend.
What do you think make’s the Trek so special? How are you hoping to bring that to the virtual version this year?
ARW: I think the staff and the people, the support during the ride and that weekend is incredible. I've done a lot of rides and nothing compares to that. It's all very sad, there's a lot of tears, but there's also a lot of laughs and a lot of fun with the costumes and people being ridiculous. All this fun stuff that they did with the dinosaur costumes and dressing up and all that. The first year we did it, we I brought ridiculous socks to wear, and that sort of became our thing, and so we had different ridiculous socks the next year.
So, for this 5K that we're doing on Mother's Day, we're encouraging people to be silly and dress up, and to take lots of pictures and videos and post them so we can see you. Obviously, everyone can't be together. We even have a prize for whoever has the best flair. And I think that spirit of fun is what’s so great about the staff that puts this on and what we’d like to bring to our group.
What would you say to someone who might be interested in participating in the My-State Trek?
ARW: I would say that this virtual Trek is a great opportunity to get your feet wet because you don't have to commit to doing one hundred and something miles on one day, or like some ridiculous hills on Sunday. It's a good way to get to know some of the people. Virtually go to some of the town halls or the different events and start getting excited about being a part of this family. And next year, hopefully you'll be able to meet these people that you've been emailing with or seeing posting things. If you're scared to commit to the Trek itself and the big ride, this is a good way to just test it out. And I'm sure they'll love it and look forward to doing it next year.
To learn more about the My-State Trek and how you can participate, click here. For more on Aubrey’s story and to donate to Team MacaRena and the Rina Coladas, click here.
Update: since this article was written, the team has raised more than $4,500 through their Mother’s Day fundraiser and other fundraising efforts.