Friends and family, I have committed to this 525-mile, 8-day California Coast Classic (CCC) Arthritis fundraiser one last time Oct. 3-10. Okay, Will, why? Are you nuts? Reasonable question; here’s why:
1. Many of the year-after-year ride leaders and staff have been making--and re-making--the case that I am needed. Their main point is that my leadership and encouragement kept them going, and I need to come back and contribute again.
2. Raising significant money for a great cause is good for the soul.
3. This is a worthy challenge for a 78-year-old (as of the start of the ride).
4. My son, Billy, who rode with me in 2002-4, and his high school friend, Diego, who rode with us 2003-4, and Billy’s wife, Marie, jumped in to ride when they heard I was riding this one, final year. Talk about being a blessed Dad. In the 2003 photo, I am on the right, Billy is next to me in the red, and Diego is on the far left. Our friend, Chris Nordby, is in the middle background.
“Sir Will Luden, as I call him, has been more than an inspiration to me in regards to the Arthritis Foundation's California Coast Classic. His words of wisdom set me on my path of 16 years of participation in this event. He showed me why helping others is such a noble deed and that everyone has a story worth listening to. I would not be who I am today without Will Luden. I am proud to know him and proud of his efforts supporting the Arthritis Foundation.” -Pete Staylor, AKA Cap’n Pete. Captain of Team Billy, preparing for his 16th year of Riding for a Cure.
“My first time participating in this ride was in 2006. In spite of my arduous training, I showed up the first day of the ride on a Saturday morning and found myself with a severe case of butterflies in my stomach. It was then that I met a gentle giant of a man, both in height and in stature, who basically took me under his wing and gave me that little nudge and warm assurance that everything would be just fine; all I had to do was point my front wheel southward and start pedaling. Over the next eight days Will was always there keeping an eye out and providing encouragement (along with an apt nick name of Red Stick--a story for another time). Needless to say the bond of friendship I formed with Will as been profound and enduring. Over the next 13 years I've been harassing Will to come back and participate in the ride one more time.” Lee Ruttenberg, friend, 17-time rider and top-five fundraiser. Shown here with two of the honoree kids with Juvenile Arthritis.
“Will, I have attached a memento of mine featuring you from 2005, my first year. It profoundly changed my life.” Kevin Schley, friend, architect, multi-year rider on a recumbent trike. The article Kevin sent me is included.
I, too, had a mentor--the late Jerry Kruse. We were good friends on and off the bike. One of the happiest, most encouraging and giving men I have ever met. I strive to be Jerry to others.
Three hundred thousand kids with Arthritis need help to live without pain, and to live normally. Along with the 54 million adult sufferers, that makes Arthritis the No. 1 cause of disability in the US. In 2020, I will be there, riding the hills,with them, for them, and for my brother and sister riders.