Dennis Quinlan was aware of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but he never anticipated the deeply personal way in which the disease would affect him. In 2006, his father-in-law, Thomas Simko, was diagnosed with ALS. The reality of the diagnosis didn’t set in for Dennis until the active man he knew who used to ride his bike, speak over the radio as a hobby, and work with his hands as an electrical engineer could no longer communicate without e-mail or handwritten notes.
Despite this crushing loss of physical ability for Thomas, his e-mails to Dennis were always positive, and Thomas remained selfless and upbeat throughout the slow progression of his terminal illness. Thomas was even able to impart invaluable advice to Dennis regarding his career to kickstart his entry into engineering consulting firms.
One specific note that Dennis received from Thomas asked him, “Want a road bike?” Dennis was touched, but he could not imagine riding the bike while his father-in-law was living. Even years after Thomas’ death in 2008, Dennis refrained from riding the bike until 2015 when he finally decided to search for a bike ride in which to participate. This year is his first year riding, as a tribute to Thomas.
Dennis is very familiar with The ALS Association through having witnessed the programs available to Thomas during his battle with the disease. Dennis credits The ALS Association with supporting his mother-in-law, Diane, and giving her the strength to see Thomas pass away peacefully at home. The Simko family has also annually participated in the ALS Greater New York Chapter’s Walk to Defeat ALS in New Jersey.
This year’s Ride to Defeat ALS is very important to Dennis. He laments that he was only given the pleasure of barbecuing with his father-in-law a handful of times. Thomas was unable to attend his daughter’s wedding to Dennis, and he never experienced being a grandfather during his time on earth. Riding on Thomas’ bike in his honor will be an emotional yet rewarding journey for Dennis. Every mile, every pedal of the bike, will be a tribute.
Dennis hopes to raise $1,000 and ride 75 miles without a flat tire. He is also hoping for sunny skies, as his bike is too important to him to allow it to get wet. His uncle is hoping to join him for this difficult and meaningful bike ride. Dennis’ t-shirt will display Thomas’ radio call sign, WB2IVM, and Dennis is confident that his father-in-law will be tuning in, watching proudly, and keeping him safe as he ride his treasured bike.
You can help Dennis reach his goal and help other Ride to Defeat ALS teams, by visiting www.als-express.org Each rider is motivated by someone special and your support only encourages people like Dennis to ride farther to help end ALS for all families.