Yesterday, May 15, 2012, we completed our first day of the First Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project Bikeathon! Our group of intrepid weekend warriors are bicycling 444 miles in 9 days to benefit this worthy cause.
The YCCP is one of the great humanitarian projects that Podiatrists everywhere can be proud of. Founded over 15 yrs ago by Dr. Charles ‘Chip’ Southerland, DPM, it was created for two main reasons. First, to help a very underserved population of children who suffer a wide range of untreated congenital and acquired foot diseases that often go untended, typically for a lifetime. For a multitude of reasons, some known others uncertain, the Mayan population has a high incidence of foot deformities. After the horrible devastation that Hurricane Gilbert left in its wake, back in 1988, Dr. Southerland reached out to the government of a destroyed fishing village, Progresso, Mexico, and offered to help. He invited Keith Kashuk, DPM and Doc Dockery, DPM, two of our professions true icons and who also share Chip’s altruistic, humanitarian passion along with a his passion to teach. The YCCP was born. In the last 15 plus years, many great surgeons, Podiatrists, Orthopedists and others, have given of their time and expertise, bringing residents in training to the Yucatan who participate in cases they may never have experienced without this program. Other giants within our profession have joined them. Doctors like Mary Crawford, Byron Hutchinson, Chris Bock, Dan Hatch and many others volunteer their time and take a week out of their busy schedules often at their own expense, travelling thousands of miles to Progresso on one or more of the 4 weeks per year that the project is scheduled, distributed over each of four quarters in a year. To date they have done over 1200 life-changing surgeries and treated over 6000 children. This is a very worthwhile project.
It is a comfort to know that IF my grandchildren or yours would were born with such a devastating deformity, the knowledge and skill of these great doctors and educators will be passed on to our young practitioners and be available when we need it.
Four years ago I was invited to speak at a conference in Merida sponsored by the International Foot and Ankle Foundation, founded by Doc Dockery. I knew a little about the project and how worthy it was so I offered to bring my Videographer, Greg Welsch along to take pictures and video. We saw first hand how this directly affected the lives of so many people and changed these podiatric residents forever. One child touched my heart. He was a 14 yr. old boy who had suffered enormous trauma to his legs at the age of 2. As a result, he had never taken one step his whole life. What I saw was a miracle. These brilliant surgeons recreated his legs. They re-broke the bones, straightened them out and using a ‘used’ Ilizaroff External fixation device, they elongated his legs. To see the way this child’s face lit up when they told him that he would be able to take a step, melted my heart. I was hooked. I was so moved emotionally by the incredible work that these doctors are doing I decided to contribute 5K to the project. The next year it went up to 6K and then 12K. I told my employees about it and they began having bake sales, garage sales, fund raisers and contributed of themselves generously. Finally, Keith Copley, cPed, and general manager of Sole Supports, Inc., suggested we host a Bikeathon to benefit the YCCP.
We called Dr. Southerland to ask permission and he embraced the project, as did Barry University. They put us into contact with Mr. Robert McKinlay, grantwriter for the University, who helped us with PR and logistics. I hired an employee Josh Evans, who has a Masters degree in environmental linguistics to act as coordinator of media and editor. We recruited 6 cyclists from Sole Supports, Inc. and began to train. As training continued I saw that it would be impossible for them to make it on the bikes they had, so I bought each of them a Trek road bicycle and the bike shop at the beginning of the Natchez Trace, Trace Bikes, offered to sponsor us by giving us huge discounts on the bikes and equipment. Still the cost exceeded 10K. That is my contribution.
To our surprise, Chip not only supported the project, but agreed to ride with us. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to be riding 444 miles with such an amazing humanitarian. His contributions are too numerous to mention but one example, besides the YCCP, is his trip to Haiti immediately following the earthquake where he was, along with other Barry University Professors, some of the first American boots on the ground to help the victims there. He is always ready to jump in, sacrifice his own life and security, to selflessly help wherever in the world he is needed. We need to support his efforts. It reflects positively on our profession and us.
Training for this, was brutal for all. I am extremely busy but I worked in training for months prior; biking in the rain sometimes because time slots to train were few and far between. Chip was even more pressed for time but managed to do some training. No one on the trip had ever done 50 miles in their training, but yesterday we rode 52 miles over some of the most challenging hills I have ever climbed on a bicycle. Our legs (and especially our rear ends) are definitely smarting today, but we are continuing on, anticipating eight more days in the ride ride.
Our riders are:
Dr. Charles Southerland, Professor at Barry U. College of Podiatry, founder of YCCP
Keith Copley, cPed General Manager of Sole Supports, Inc.
Dan Nolen, Grinding Dept. at Sole Supports, Inc.
Julie Hippe, Professional Relations at Sole Supports, Inc.
Michael Conley, Chef and Athletic Director at Sole Supports, Inc.
Noah Glaser, Software designer at Sole Supports, Inc.
Ed Glaser, founder and CEO at Sole Supports, Inc.
I also must mention the incredible support we have gotten from Dr. Southerland’s wife Suzie who has made the trip a joy by being so sweet and both driving one of the support vehicles and preparing some incredible smoothies for us. I don’t believe that she has ever met a stranger. It is difficult not to fall in love with both her and Dr. Southerland. Their kindness, generosity and humility are overwhelming. Also, I want to thank Mary Pinel for driving our other support vehicle and Greg Welsch for filming the trip. This has been an all hands effort by all of my 100 employees and I am grateful to every one of them. When we say “WE MAKE PEOPLE BETTER” at Sole Supports, Inc., we walk the talk; we live it and breathe it and bike it. Those that couldn’t ride are working on other fund raising efforts for the children. It is a company wide project that we are proud to support.
What can you do? Donate something to the cause. Go to www.solesupports.com
and click on the donate button. It will take you to the home page of the YCCP at Barry University where it walks you through the donation process. 100% of your donation goes directly to helping these kids, all of it tax deductible. NOT one penny flows through us and most of us are unaware of who donates what.
We are putting in this tremendous effort to help these kids and we are only asking for whatever pocket change you may have available, to make enormous differences in the lives of these innocent children. Please give what you can.
This has nothing to do with any minor differences in biomechanical philosophy we may have…. It is to help these kids walk, aid the humanitarian efforts of some or our greatest colleagues and help train our residents to become better doctors, surgeons and people. Please, please, please help make this a success. Thank you.
I posted this in Biomechanics because it is where I am best known. Lets help these kids.