By Gretchen and Michael, RIDETZ 2012 Riders
Before turning the post over to Gretchen and Michael, we must express our excitement that they are joining us for RIDETZ this summer. These are two incredibly special individuals, and their commitment to RIDETZ and TFFT is one of pure passion. With two young boys, carving out the time and funds for a trip to Tanzania is certainly not convenient. Reading Gretchen and Mike’s story, however, you will learn, that they act with their hearts and that they see RIDETZ as the beginning of a bigger journey. Gretchen and Mike, we can’t wait to spend RIDETZ with you guys. You are a source of great inspiration!
Where are you from?
We are from Chicago, just north of the city. Michael grew up in that area, and Gretchen grew up a little bit of everywhere!
What do you do for work?
Michael is a pilot for Pinnace Airlines (a regional carrier for Delta). Gretchen mostly is a mom to Merritt (6) and Calvin (4), but works part time teaching in a Toddler classroom at their boys’ Montessori school. Gretchen also facilitates parenting classes on the side and is currently running a class as a fundraiser for RIDETZ!
What do you like to do on your spare time?
We both like to try for a variety of exercise. It’s always fun to be training for something! We have done a few triathlons and other bike events. We both enjoy yoga. Anything outside… camping, exploring. We love dressing up for Halloween! I think parenting might be our favorite past time! Yeah, pretty much hanging out with our boys!
Who is your inspiration in life?
We both see qualities in lots of people which we admire and that shape who we are. We certainly serve as inspiration to each other, especially in taking on ambitions like RIDETZ. The peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, has become a great inspiration recently (if you’re not familiar, take a look – he’s much about what TFFT truly is!). We each have a grandfather (neither still with us) who we pretty much think were top notch. We would be well off to emulate the people they were. Good folks! We would also like to grow up to be much like Kaitlin Rogers and Meghann Gunderman (of TFFT)!
How did you hear about RIDETZ?
The amazing Katilin Rogers (now one of the directors of TFFT, and a rider this year for RIDETZ!), brought TFFT into our world. Through teaching and youth work, Gretchen has had the privilege of watching Kaitlin ‘grow up’ and achieve wonderful things through following her passions.
What inspired you to want to ride this June?
After taking our boys with us to hear Meghann and Kaitlin speak to a group of potential donors about the work TFFT is doing, we were so inspired (We would go hear about anything Kaitlin was doing, knowing that whatever it was it would be inspiring!). That was about a year ago. We really felt this was something with which we would like to connect further as a family. We want our boys to have a greater sense of the world in which they live. It is important to us as a family to work toward experiences with all people, so our boys (and us, as adults), can embrace the normalcy of being part of a world with a great diversity of people. We want to exist beyond our little corner of the world, trying to avoid being locked into the norms of our immediate surroundings. What could this involvement with TFFT look like for us as a family? Gretchen had lunch with Kaitlin later that summer and asked much about RIDETZ. The details of the conversation were relayed to Michael, who reported the next morning that he had lost sleep that night. He just couldn’t stop thinking about the ride. We could do it! We just had to do it! RIDETZ is our next step on our journey to work with TFFT as a family. We can’t wait to support TFFT on RIDETZ, see firsthand the work being done, and plan our next trip to Tanzania, with our boys!
Are you celebrating any milestone with RIDETZ?
Not exactly, but we met 11 years ago training for a 500 mile bike ride, one of the AIDS Rides. We will celebrate, during RIDETZ, the anniversary of the date we were engaged 10 years ago (June 14, 2002). Also on a bike ride!
What is your favorite place to ride? (besides Tanzania that is)
We like to ride up Sheridan Road (north of Chicago, along the lake). Even better is to get out on the country roads in southern Indiana (where Gretchen’s mom lives) and just GO! It’s a far cry from city riding! The hills in Galena, IL are awesome! The ideal… Marin County, CA, north of SF! Wow!
What kind of bike do you train on? Does it have a name?
We both have Cannondale road bikes. Hmmmm… we need to get on our creativity and come up with some names!
What unique ways are you planning on spreading the awareness for what you are doing and fundraising?
Right now we are pretty much talking with everyone we know about the Ride and TFFT. We have distributed over 250 letters and are still sending out e-mails and Facebook messages like crazy. We are hoping to hold an evening at Gretchen’s step-brother’s brewery with a raffle and partial drink sales going to the Ride. We’d also like to host a ladies’ evening at a local shop owned by Gretchen’s dad and step-mom, with a percentage of sales going to the ride. We’re still brewing ideas… and looking for more inspiration from everyone else! Bring it on!
“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
“Because you are alive, everything is possible.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
You can follow Gretchen and Mike’s fundraising efforts here. They are unstoppable!