John and Amy Florio are like so many parents who want their children to grow up not just happy, healthy, and successful, but kind and generous too. They also know that they can’t make somebody do good, then it’s a chore instead of a choice. Instead, they can instill values and knowledge to help guide them. Four years ago, John told his son JD about ALS. What JD chose to do, and continues to do, inspires others to make their own decisions to help others.
In 2013, JD Florio was a typical ten year old. He loved sports and having fun with friends. One of those friends is Nathan Rose, son of Wes Rose, a board member with the Greater Philadelphia Chapter who has been living with ALS for nearly a decade. JD’s parents John and Amy are close with Wes and his wife Kelly. In fact, Amy and Kelly have been friends since they were young.
Perhaps the bond between Amy and Kelly is why the Florios have stressed the importance of standing by your friends no matter your age. When Wes was diagnosed with ALS, John and Amy made a promise to their friend to be there for him. The Ride to Defeat ALS, which this year is on Saturday, June 18, has proved to be the perfect way for them to honor that promise.
10 year old JD chose to make his own promise. How he lived up to that promise to support his friend has filled his parents with pride and motivated others to join him on this ride.
The promise that JD made was to do whatever was in his power to fight ALS in honor of his friend. When JD makes a promise, he takes it seriously. In his first outing in 2013, the family raised close to $20,000 for the Ride to Defeat ALS. With his coach’s blessing, JD skipped his baseball playoffs that summer so that he could be at the bike ride because this was more important. He knows that this event is a memory that he will keep with him forever.
That promise has continued these past four years. Nobody would judge a 10 year old for making his sports a priority. But year after year, JD has made a commitment to fight ALS. This year, he will once again ride into Wildwood, New Jersey for the Rose family, and this time he will be skipping a lacrosse tournament to participate in the bike ride. JD is 100% behind this effort.
At any step along the way these past four years, JD could have quit. He could have said “that’s a lot of work, and I don’t have time this year,” but he know that it means so much to Wes and his family.
Young people often get a lot of help from their parents from homework to sports and everywhere in between. John and Amy do help, but they really want their kids to do things on their own. This year, their daughter Arianna, who is now ten years old, is joining the ride as well. The Florios have put the onus on JD and his sister to do the organizing. She is very excited to join her big brother and the fundraising has become competitive between both of them.
JD and Arianna don’t expect to fight ALS alone. They have brought in other friends and family. John Florio’s friend Carlos Duarte joined the team two years ago and since then has raised over $6,000. Carlos joined the team because his son Jonathan has been friends with JD for years and JD’s energy for the ride and his commitment to fight ALS motivated Jonathan and his dad Carlos to get involved too. That $6,000 that Carlos and his family raised, plus the over $30,000 that JD and John have raised since 2013 have combined to bring in a lot of money for the ALS cause in Wes’s honor. Each new donation motivates the families more. They started this to support their friend, but they know that, because they have raised so much money over the years, they are helping many people with ALS in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware get access to quality care and help fund research to find new ALS treatments.
Now that Arianna is joining her brother JD, she is excited to have her friends ride with her. Carlos’s daughter Olivia will be riding with Arianna and they are very motivated to make a difference in their first ride together. Arianna and Olivia spoke to their school principal and they organized a dress down day for the teachers which raised an additional $160 for the ride team. John is proud to see how much his daughter has jumped at the opportunity to follow the trail that her brother started.
The Ride to Defeat ALS is always a fun event. Riders gets tickets to Morey’s Piers water park and also enjoy what Philadelphia Magazine has called one of the best charity rides in the region. Those are good enough reasons for a young person to register. However, none of that is what motivates JD or his sister.
Four years ago, JD Florio made a promise. He hasn’t given up on that promise. Instead, that promise has grown to bring in more families, to bring in his sister, to bring in more money for the ALS cause. He knows how meaningful the bond is between a father and son and he wants to be there to honor his friend’s father.
JD’s story started with a promise, but, because of his hard work planting these seeds along the way, it will end with a cure. Join JD, Arianna, and all of the teams on June 18 for the Ride to Defeat ALS. Register or donate at www.als-express.org