Plains to Lakes

Gary and Barb Heiman

Cycling for Charity

West Jefferson veteran and avid cyclist Gary Heiman has taken his wife Barbara's suggestion and will soon be riding 700 miles to raise funds and awareness for Huntington's disease.

This article appeared in the
April 28 printed edition of
The Madison Press

Written by: Kevin Dye

West Jefferson resident Gary Heiman is First Vice Commander for the American Legion Post 201 and is an avid cyclist. He averages around 2,000 miles a year riding his bike around central Ohio. He also has participated 11 times in the annual GOBA (Great Ohio Biking Adventure) rides, so much so that this year Heiman wasn't sure that he was interested in doing the same ride once again.

That is when his wife Barbara inspired him by suggesting that he consider a different type of bike event to participate in this year. Barbara is a social worker for the Huntington's Disease Society of America, Central Ohio Chapter. She knew of a different bike event that would truely be more of an adventure for her husband and at the same time he could help those afflicted with the terrible, hereditary disease.

Gary Heiman is now looking for Madison County and central Ohio residents who might be willing to sponsor him for the "Plains to Lakes" cycling event, whose goal it is to raise money to help fight Huntington's disease.

"I did the GOBA ride 11 times and I really wanted to do something new," said Heiman. "That's when Barb suggested I partake in the Plains to Lakes ride. Barb has been involved as a social worker with the Huntington's Disease Society of America (HDSA), Central Ohio Chapter since 1999 and was familiar with the event."

Huntington's Disease is a neurological, familial disease, passed from parent to child through a mutation on the fourth chromosome. Each child of an HD parent has a 50-50 chance of inheritig the gene which causes degeneration of brain cells, resulting in the loss of the ability to walk, think, talk, reason, and swallow. Onset generally appears at midlife but in some, onset occurs in childhood (juvenile HD) or in old age (Late Onset). The desease profoundly affects the lives of entire families, as the person with HD becomes totally dependent on others for his/her care. About one in 10,000 Americans have this disease.

The remarkable thing about the Plains to Lakes event is that it was started by two women, Marie Nemec and Charlotte Reicks, who live in Grand Junction, Colorado. Typically, they may be the only riders who bike the entire route each year. The route is different each year and they have logged close to 20,000 miles, through 42 states, while raising over $500,000 for the cause.

Marie Nemec because familiar with Huntinton's disease by meeting author Carmen Leal, who wrote Faces of Huntington's and she also attended the HDSA convention in 1998. Marie, being an active Christian, felt that her faith required action sighting 1 John 3:18: "Let us not love with word or tongue but in deed and truth." Nemec and Reicks have how created an annual event where their deeds can help to fight the disease.

Now, Heiman is joining their cause for the entire 700 mile journey which begins June 12 at Belle Fourche, South Dakota and ends June 23 in Eden Prairie, Minesota.

"People can contribute anything they want to sponsor me," Heiman said. "Mostly it will just be the three of us, except the last 125 miles anyone can join us to ride on the Lake Wobegon Rails-to-Trails path."

Heiman says that the cyclists will stay over night at private homes and churches during their trip. The goal for the event is to raise $12,000 and so far there are commitments for donations that tally $7,000.

"So far my biggest problem has been finding time to train for the ride," Heiman said. "There has been so much rain that it has been hard to ride. But I'm excited to take part in the event."

There is a website for the event,, where you can register to donate to support Heiman's ride. Your name or organization will be posted along with the sponsors already registered for the event.

The website has much useful information on the Plains to Lakes ride and Huntington's disease, plus there will be updates and photos posted during the 12 day trip.