On June 7, 15-year-old Bryan Warnecke of Castle Rock began a 1,065 bicycle tour to benefit Children's Hospital Colorado.
Bryan has cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disorder that primarily impacts the respiratory system and exocrine glands. It causes the production of abnormally thick mucus, leading to the blockage of the pancreatic ducts, intestines, and bronchi and often resulting in respiratory infection.
Inspired by his participation in last year's Courage Classic bike ride, in which he was the top individual fundraiser raising more than $70,000, Bryan, with the support of his father Steve, decided to create his own Pink Lightning Tour as a prelude to this year's race.
“Early last year Bryan came to me and said he wanted to ride the Courage Classic. So we trained and we rode the ride and he rode the entire route,” Bryan's father Steve Warnecke said. “We had to stop a couple of times to let his lungs recover a little bit, but he rode the entire route and he raised $70,000, which was the most money ever raised by any rider in the 24 year history of the Courage Classic.
“After the ride, we started talking about what we were going to do next. We talked about it over the winter and around Christmas time he decided to do a big ride around Colorado to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Courage Classic.”
Bryan's tour began with a 29.76-mile ride from Children's Colorado's main campus at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora to Children's Colorado's North Campus in Broomfield. He was joined by more than 20 other Courage Classic team captains and fellow riders.
“We hadn't ridden before (last year). We had so much fun training and on the Courage Classic that we kept riding all summer and we just really had fun,” Steve said. “It's really good for his lungs too. The prolonged exercise and work helps to keep his lungs healthy.”
The 2014 Courage Classic is an annual three-day, 155-mile bicycle tour that will run from July 19-21 and begins and ends at Copper Mountain.
Funds raised through the Courage Classic benefit the Children's Fund, helping Children's Hospital Colorado sustain and improve care for kids by addressing the hospital's areas of greatest need.
Bryan's care for CF includes 50 pills and two half-hour respiratory physical therapy treatments each day as well as ongoing visits to Children's Hospital Colorado.
He said he intends to ride over 1,000 miles in 43 days around Colorado to thank Children's Hospital Colorado for keeping him healthy and to encourage other kids with disabilities to remain physically active and pursue their dreams.
“When we rode the `Courage' last year we thought that was it and then this came up. It's hard to say what comes next, but we intend for this to be a one off,” he said. “It's the 25th anniversary, so this is special.
“If it wasn't for Children's Hospital I wouldn't be standing here today. This is our way of celebrating and giving back and thanking all the people here.”
Why Pink Lightning?
Bryan loves hockey but realized years ago that he really would not have the lung capacity to skate up and down the ice with as much stamina as others, so he decided to play goalie where quickness is more important than lung capacity.
“My first ever goalie pads had a pink x on them and my goalie coach said my legs were super quick so he nicknamed me `Pink Lighting' and I kind of took it with me in every sport I've done since,” he said.
Bryan's ultimate dream is to be the first person with Cystic Fibrosis to compete in the Olympic Games as the goalie for the USA hockey team. He is currently a goalie for the Arapahoe Warriors Midget Minor hockey team.
To find out more about Pink Lighting and donate, visit www.pinklightning.org.