By Allison RadisLast summer, Ohio University student Mike Brennan and childhood friend Chuck Chandler began a 43-day, 4,000-mile bike trip from Ocean City, Mass., to San Diego Bay, Calif. Although the two St. Ignatius High School graduates shared a childhood dream of bicycling across the United States, when they finally mapped their course it had taken on a new meaning. Mike Brennan's cousin Clare O'Toole has a rare birth defect called CHARGE Syndrome. Mike and Chandler combined their dream with a dream to help Clare and other CHARGE patients, and "CHARGE Across America" was born.
CHARGE is an acronym for the six most common elements of the syndrome. They are, but are not limited to, vision loss, facial palsy, heart defects, the blocking or narrowing of nasal passages, slow physical development, genital and urinary abnormalities, ear abnormalities and hearing loss. While CHARGE symptoms may be corrected, most affected children are required to have approximately seven surgeries before the age of five for an attempt at a healthy life.
Brennan and Chandler invented CHARGE Across America because they wanted to raise awareness. They wanted to inform people of the CHARGE conference being held that July in Cleveland, Ohio, and raise money to aid CHARGE families in the numerous surgeries their children would endure.
The campaign was a huge success. Brennan's journals tell accounts of dozens of conversations with people about the syndrome. On July 19 Brennan and Chandler pulled into San Diego Bay with $5,000 in pledges and 4,000 miles of memories behind them. The campaign still continues to bring in donations from sponsors the young men met while biking.
But their journey mixed hard times with the good. The two friends biked through mountains, faced high winds in Kansas, withstood temperatures ranging in the 100s and fixed endless flat tires and broken bicycle spokes. Brennan joked that he would pursue Subway as a sponsor because the pair frequently ate there. Sleeping on benches, picnic tables, campgrounds and in front yards were common occurrences.
Brennan and Chandler plan to continue their fundraising efforts this summer. After Brennan's graduation from Ohio University this June the pair will run, on average, a marathon each day down the West Coast from Seattle to San Diego. Their goals are the same - to raise awareness and donations to help fight CHARGE.
Brennan hopes that others will join him and Chandler on the 2,100-mile journey this summer. He is already gaining campus support including the Ohio University Fashion Associates who have picked CHARGE Across America as their philanthropy project for spring quarter. Their help is appreciated because more participants will bring more support and a heightened level of CHARGE awareness.
For more information on CHARGE or the next CHARGE conference, visit the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation at www.Chargesyndrome.org.
For more information on CHARGE Across America, visit the Web site at www.chargeacrossamerica.org.
Allison Radis is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.