TRAVERSE CITY —
The 11-Legged Lake Tour provides a tapestry of healing.
Held in honor of Ryan Giannini, who died in 2002 at age 20, this year's ride and walk fundraiser will benefit two nonprofits: the Chalfonte Foundation and the Michigan Donor Family Council.
The 2012 event is scheduled for Saturday and offers a walking route and three different cycling routes for riders of all abilities. The 15-mile, 30-mile or 57.5-mile ride — around Torch Lake — will cover beautiful scenery in the Chain of Lakes area.
Ryan, who gave the gift of life with organ donation, inspired his mom, Cindy, in her volunteer advocacy, support and education efforts promoting organ donation in Michigan. The family also is devoted to supporting the Chalfonte Foundation, whose summer camps provided so much joy to their son.
"This event is just very special in so many ways," said Cindy Giannini, who lives in Sterling Heights with her husband Rich.
Ryan had Gorham's Disease, a very rare condition also called vanishing bone syndrome. Diagnosed when he was nine, symptoms began appearing at age 7. From that young age, he stoically endured countless medical procedures, illnesses and treatments for the rest of his life.
"He was a real trooper through everything," said Giannini.
A treasured respite came every summer for seven years when Ryan enjoyed a week — later, two weeks — of friendship and camp activities. The refuge for children in need was the Chalfonte House in Elk Rapids and two associated log cabins.
Connections Ryan made at the small camp turned into deep friendships, which endured during subsequent school years and into young adulthood.
"It's really a very special place," said Giannini. "They all looked forward to it every year."
After he died, six of Ryan's friends decided to do something outrageous in his honor the next summer. Something completely Ryan: fun and challenging while also helping others.
They rode their bikes from Lansing to the Elk Rapids camp, dubbing their endeavor the 11-Legged Ride as a nod to one participant being a single amputee. Money they raised purchased bikes for the Chalfonte House.
"As we rode, we were just having a great time," said Jon Piercey of McMinnville, Tenn., one of the original six riders who still volunteers as a camp counselor.
"It just kind of sprang up from our love for Ryan and our love for Chalfonte Foundation," he added of the 11-Legged Lake Tour, which in 2004 became a public event.
The annual tradition has been spearheaded by the Gianninis for the past three years. This year's event will feature a team of family members and friends who will Pedal for Penny. A friend, donor family advocate and employee of Gift of Life Michigan, Penny Colthurt died August 24, 2011, nine years to the day after Ryan died.
"This ride is open to the whole community," said Cindy Giannini. "It's to honor someone who passed who was a donor, a recipient, someone waiting for an organ donation and someone waiting who died."
Tour in Elk Rapids benefits Chalfonte Foundation, Michigan Donor Family Council
TRAVERSE CITY —
The 11-Legged Lake Tour provides a tapestry of healing.
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