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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Friend of Gerry Frierdich earns well-deserved honor

Sandy Gore, the sparkplug behind fundraising efforts for injured recumbent cyclist and Belleville, Ill., portrait photographer Gerry "Chief" Frierdich, will be one of 12 people who will receive awards Thursday night at dinner held by The BASIC Initiative, a nonprofit group that works to bring community organizations together to collaborate on serving greater Belleville.

A story about the awards appears in today's Belleville News-Democrat. Needless to say, I was quite happy and surprised when I found out I was going to lay out a front page featuring Sandy and Gerry as the lead art.

I first met Sandy back in November 2007, shortly after the News-Democrat did a story about Gerry and mentioned her efforts to sell T-shirts to help out Gerry. Before that story was published, I had been thinking of ways on how the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society could help, but I wasn't quite sure whom I would have to contact to get the money to Gerry until I found out about Sandy.

From November through June 1 and beyond, I got hundreds of e-mails from Sandy concerning the ride, and she got hundreds of e-mails from me. Sandy's energy was contagious, and our group raised thousands of dollars for Gerry and drew more than 300 people on The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Bicycle Ride, a healthy turnout for a first-time ride.

In a note to me today, Sandy confirmed what I already knew about her character:

"Roger, thank you very much for your kind words, but I'm just a small part of the big picture. I'm so proud of Chief for everything he has accomplished these last 14 months. ... All of us do such good things every day, from opening a door for someone to giving a smile to a passing stranger. Although we think these things are little, it means a lot to the recipient. Over these last 14 months, I've learned a great deal about myself and who I want to be. I've started doing things I have always thought about, but have never had the guts to follow through. Over the summer, I picked up the grocery store tab for a little old lady in line ahead of me. It was spur of the moment, and to say the least, she was shocked and very appreciative. Although I'll never know, my hope is that she was able to spend the money on something special for herself but, regardless, I hope it helped her out in some small way. It's up to us to take care of each other, day-in and day-out."

Although Gerry continues to improve, he still has a long ways to go. You can help. The Touring Cyclist bicycle shop in Fairview Heights and Bicycle World in Belleville are selling raffle tickets for a second Bachhetta recumbent bicycle, which will be awarded during a mouse race benefit for Gerry in February. Also, you still can donate to Gerry through Active.com.

Congratulations, Sandy, for all you've done to help Gerry through his difficult recovery!

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