In January I signed up for the Axel Project Bike Classic before I realized that its date, August 30, happened to be during Labor Day weekend. Because we already had plans to go backpacking in the Tetons with some good friends, I donated my spot in the ride to a fledgling cyclist and promised I’d do my best to publicize this very important ride.
The Axel Project is a non-profit organization founded by Jen and Randy Charette of Ridgeway, Colorado, to honor their late son, Axel, and to spread his joy of cycling. Axel was only two years old when he was killed in Sayulita, Mexico, and his parents aim to honor his legacy by focusing on his happy and loved life through the Axel Project. As they say on the website: Our mission is to introduce and nurture a lifelong passion for cycling to children and their families.
They are accomplishing this broad goal by providing balance bikes and instruction to children in need, ages 18 months to five-years-old, to teach basic skills to get those kids riding on bikes. The ride will raise money for the Axel Project.
Since I learned about Axel Charette and his tenacious parents, I’ve had a deep respect for them. Every parent can imagine what it would be like to lose a child—that’s why the prospect of it is so terrifying. The Charettes have endured a nightmare, and they have refused to let it define them or Kalden, their older son.
That’s one reason I have supported the Axel Project since its inception and why I want to do all I can to raise awareness about it.
The other reason is that I completely agree with the organization’s mission. I still remember learning to ride a bike when I was growing up in Colorado Springs. I was much older than my kids are now, and my entire bike shook as I summoned the courage to push off the ground and trust the motion of my bike.
This summer Henry learned how to ride a pedal bike without training wheels. It was a huge milestone, but he’s been cruising on two wheels almost since he could walk. He inherited a Strider bike from a neighbor at 18 months and never looked back.
Now Silas is following in his tracks.
Watching my boys experience the joy of speed and glide gives me a vicarious thrill. Even better, it instills in them a daring confidence that I adore. When I was a kid, and then a teenager, my bike was my freedom. Biking has been one of the constants in my life, and I dearly want to share my love of the sport with my kids.
Knowing that Jen and Randy have the same goal—and not just for their family, but for kids who might otherwise never ride a bike for lack of money—makes me really, really like them. And the Axel Project. And the inaugural charity ride.
Trust me when I say I am very sad to miss this ride. There are two options: 48 miles or 80. It tours through some of the most beautiful terrain in Colorado, from Ridgeway to Telluride. And it will be attended by champion, professional cyclists, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) and US Road Champion, Timmy Duggan. And at the end of the ride, there will be a festival in Ridgeway.
If you’re interested, register at www.axelprojectride.com. If the prospect of riding over high mountain passes doesn’t appeal but you want to be involved, consider volunteering. Click here to sign up for volunteer positions.
And no matter what you do, join me in my appreciation of this tremendous effort by Jen and Randy, who are finding beauty in the world and pursuing #axellove. Their perseverance is a testament to the love of a parent. It’s also one of the greatest examples I know of on how to live a loving and meaningful life, even in the face of great adversity.