Easterseals 100 Featured Rider: Rick Diefenderfer

Rick has been cycling since 2016.

He states that his favorite part of cycling is the cardio, and shares that “in 2011, the doctors found that I had 2 blockages, 95% and 90%. Cycling allows me the cardio that I need without the punishment on my knees and feet.”

Rick has been involved with Easterseals for 7 years. He started cycling for his health, but has used it to give back to the community! Specifically, he has used it to raise funds and awareness in the fight against Autism.

He shares this amazing story from his cycling journey:

“I travel extensively for my work.  Three years ago I came home from one of my trips and told my wife we had to talk.  She looked at me as if I was going to say I was leaving her.  Bad delivery on my part.  I quickly stated that, for three months I had developed a burning drive to give back.  Specifically a need to join the fight against Autism. She asked me how I was going to do that. I said that I would like to be an inspiration for others to give via riding my bicycle from Santa Monica to Manhattan. She reminded me that, although I had a bike, I haven’t ridden it in over20 years.  So, I trained for a year. 

Then I told my 80 year old mother that I was going on a coast to coast bicycle ride, she said that I was crazy and going to end up killing myself.  She wouldn’t talk to me for 3 months.  Once I started my ride, I had to call her every night to tell her I was doing well.  Two weeks into the ride I get a call from a newspaper reporter from my home town that wanted to do a story on the ride.  My mother, now proud of her son, went to the newspaper and told them of the journey.  From not talking to me to my biggest supporter.

We set up a donation page on Easterseals website.  We posted our progress everyday.  It took 34 days and we raised $18,000.”

Thank you to Rick for your dedication to the mission of Easterseals!

Easterseals 100 Rider Feature: David Oznowitz

David has been cycling seriously since 2016.

He shares that his favorite part of cycling is when he is in the woods on his MTB and out on the scenic country roads in Central Illinois – particularly in the Fall.

David finds great empowerment in cycling. He states that physical sports, by definition, require a certain degree of physical ability that tends to exclude some participants.  Cycling has done more than almost any other sport to be inclusive, as the industry has engineered cycles to accommodate almost everyone.  

David has been involved with Easterseaks for 16 years since his good friend John Pratt encourage him to become involved. “I visited Timber Pointe and knew right away I wanted to be involved in helping these kids.”

His favorite rides occur with friends when they can get together and cycle in a ride that supports a great cause. “Races can be a good way to challenge yourself, but nothing beats a ride with friends knowing that you’re helping others.  Proper hydration afterwards is also a crucial part of the experience.”

Easterseals 100 Bicycle Ride Featured Rider: Ron Malik

Ron has been hand cycling since the early 1990’s.

Before cycling, and even now, he participated in various marathons (including Peoria, Chicago and Boston) in a racing wheelchair. His first wheelchair racing experience occurred in 1976 during his college days at the University of Illinois. Since then he has taken part in many races and marathons throughout the United States.  He retired from racing in the mid-1980s, and began hand cycling in 1994 as an activity he could do with his family, particularly his 4-year-old son. From that point forward, they participated in many family cycling events, and would travel to Dubuque, IA once or twice a year to cycle the trails together. In 2006, his sons decided to run the Steamboat Classic in order to earn their Personal Fitness Badge – necessary to become Eagle Scouts. Ron began coaching and working out with them, and before he knew it, was participating in marathons again. After a wrist injury a few years later, he had to retire from using the racing wheelchair and began using the hand cycle exclusively. With the help of Joe Russell at Russell’s Cycling and Fitness, Ron built a racing hand cycle. Since this point, Ron has completed numerous marathons locally and across the US in his hand cycle. 

Ron enjoys all aspects of cycling. Whether he is participating in challenging rides and races, enjoying more leisurely rides, riding with others or alone, Ron loves the way cycling makes him feel.  For him, cycling is a mental frame of mind that allows him to focus on improving overall health, stimulate his brain while riding challenging courses, and just relax while riding through the countryside. He also admits that his favorite part is when he is done and his Garmin flashes, signaling that he has set a new personal record!

For Ron, sports has always been an activity where he feels he can compete with non-disabled peers, and that having a variety of adaptive sports has given him this feeling. Hand cycling has given him empowerment from social, parental and competitive venues.  He shares that some of their best family memories have come from riding trails together, and the hand cycle created a way for him to participate. He was able to be a part of the evolution of the family tradition, pulling their youngest son in a kid kart behind the hand cycle the first few years, and then watching him go from a three-wheeled tricycle to his own bicycle. Ron shares that each time they shared an experience cycling, he felt great because he was doing something “ANY DAD” would do!  Just a little different.

Ron has been a huge advocate and worked diligently to get wheelchair and hand cycling in to races everywhere. He was the first “adaptive racer” at races in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kansas.  His mission is similar to that of Easterseals – to promote inclusion and to help individuals with disabilities become empowered through developing their own skills through coaching and hard work. He has had the distinct privilege of wearing a Team USA uniform in three different wheelchair sports.

In 2017, at the age of 63, Ron started a goal of doing 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 months to raise money for The National Wheelchair Sports Camp at Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch where he coaches archery every year.  He is proud to state that he is over halfway done. At the NWCSC at Ironwood Spring he has worked with individuals ranging from 8 to 68 years of age. His goals range beyond the United States, as part of his fundraising efforts Ron is also working to promote sports in Africa at a mission for individuals with disabilities.