A 56-year-old Richland pastor plans to ride across America four months after having open-heart surgery in hopes of raising enough money to buy 1 million diapers for infants.
Eric Shadle of the Richland Seventh-day Adventist Church will start the 3,700-mile journey Sunday.
"When I think about the need for diapers, I think about how vulnerable those in diapers are," he said.
Shadle serves as a board member of the Tri-Cities Diaper bank, which helps poor families get diapers.
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The bank has collected 150,000 diapers since its founding 18 months ago, a feat Shadle said would have been impossible without community support.
Shadle hopes to further the goals of diaper banks across the nation when he rides in July.
Plans for the ride have been a year in the making. Shadle said he is not a hardcore cyclist, but he has worked with a trainer and been on several long-distance rides.
But last November, Shadle faced a serious complication for the ride. He started experiencing severe chest pain during his training.
On Feb. 8, doctors performed open-heart surgery and said he would need at least three months of recovery before he could get back on a bike.
Shadle's friends and family brought a new black bicycle to the hospital for motivation. He said the bike, and his dedication to all the infants dependent on the diaper bank, encouraged him through his recovery.
Shadle said the need for diapers is great, but -- like a difficult bike ride -- it is important to keep pedaling.
"When it gets tough (on a ride), I focus on the next 20 pedals. Here at the diaper bank, we need to think of the next person that comes through our doors," he said.
Families spend on average $100 a month on diapers for one infant, Shadle said. The cost forces poor families to choose between diapers and other necessities, like food.
"People are responding to this real need," he said.
And now the National Diaper Bank Network also has responded with a pledge to match donations, diaper-for-diaper, up to 250,000 diapers, said Renee Martin, associate program manager for the Tri-Cities Diaper Bank.
To reach the 1 million diaper goal, the bank hopes to raise $250,000. Because the bank can purchase diapers for 14 to 15 cents each in bulk at Walmart, money is the most effective means of donation. However, the bank accepts diaper donations of any brand and size -- even opened packages, Martin said.
More than a week from Shadle's ride, the bank already has received $40,000 in donations. Donations can be made at ride4diapers.org and tricitiesdiaperbank.org.
Along the way, Shadle plans to speak at churches and diaper banks every weekend.
Shadle's mission will fuel him as he rides 70 miles a day on average, six days a week, until he reaches Silver Spring, Md., on Sept. 5.
Shadle said he feels strong enough to handle the distance, despite his recent surgery.
A team of volunteers will shadow Shadle on his route by vehicle. They will carry his luggage, food and water so Shadle can focus on the ride.
Shadle's own church will hold a public event and breakfast at 8 a.m. the morning Shadle begins his ride. But Shadle plans to begin his ride down George Washington Way by 8:30 a.m., as his first day holds a 100-mile trip to Pomeroy.
The bank will accept donations at the launch party, and members of the community are welcome to ride along Shadle -- by bike, skateboard or whatever -- as he leaves Richland.
-- Eric Francavilla: 509-582-1535; firstname.lastname@example.org