Sometimes making a difference means an act of strength. All it takes to help someone in need is the willpower and determination to see it through.
For Angie Hammond, IT Specialist, who hadn’t so much as set foot in a spin class in ten years, this meant making the 202 mile bike ride from Seattle to Portland—all for the sake of helping a sick child.
For the past six months, West Linn High School has had Benny Fever. Every student at West Linn has heard of Benny Hartley, the charming five-year-old boy with Down Syndrome and Leukemia, who our school is supporting through “Sparrow Clubs USA”. T-shirts and wristbands with Benny’s name on it have been worn to show support for his battle, along with sports games, fundraising and volunteer events to raise money.
When Hammond saw how students were rallying together to help Benny, she was inspired.
“The way the kids were getting together was just so great. I wanted to find a way to get the staff in on it too,” she said. She decided to sign up for the annual Seattle to Portland bike race and encourage her co-workers to pledge money.
The race takes place from July 13-14, spread over two days, and is a challenge for even the most experienced bikers. More than 10,000 cyclists will set out on the journey in mid-summer and bike for more than 20 hours, about 10 percent of which are uphill.
After signing up for the race, Hammond wrote an email to the staff asking for pledges. Their response was better than she could have imagined.
“Every single staff member at this school pledged money. Every single one!” Hammond said, beaming. “From the cooks in the kitchen to the admin to the teachers.”
Getting over a hundred people at West Linn High School to agree on something is not an easy feat, yet the support for Hammond has been overwhelming.
“Lou (Bailey) didn’t think it could happen, but I did it,” Hammond said. “Every single person has helped.”
Raising money for the race has been the simple part – training is a whole other obstacle. Hammond has been biking for more than three hours a day and exercising furiously to meet her goal. Even though she’s lost an impressive 40 pounds, there are times when the exhaustion gets to her.
“Sometimes I come in in the morning after riding for hours and I’ll be in tears,” Hammond said. “But Stacy (Erickson) and Chisty (Bray),” teacher librarian and library secretary, “remind me what I’m doing it for, and I feel so much better.”
Although Hammond has taken on this daunting challenge for the sake of a family in need, it turns out she has never even met the Hartleys.
“No, I haven’t met Benny yet. But I can tell he’s a great kid,” she said.
In fact, the Hartley family has no idea any of this is going on. Hammond chose to keep her training a secret until she has collected all the money, at which point she will present them a check.
“They’re coming in for the staff luncheon on June 13, so I’m going to surprise them with the money,” she said, visibly excited. “I’m thinking I’ll come in on my bike with the check in my hand!”
“When Angie told me about it I thought it was such a good idea,” Erickson said. “And she’s been working super, super hard.”
Hammond’s infectious energy and dedication has inspired every staff member at West Linn. There’s no doubt that her journey to make a difference in the lives of others will extend much further than a race.