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August 28, 2012 > Lauren's Ride: Golden Gate Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge

Lauren's Ride: Golden Gate Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge

By Belinda Maloney

Lauren Byrne, a 22 year old woman from Newark, CA, became a quadriplegic when she was just 15. A vibrant, talented, outgoing teenager, full of life, Lauren's world as she knew it, tumbled down around her. In a swimming pool accident, she hit her head and became paralyzed; she had broken her neck. In a wheelchair with all her dreams and aspirations coming to a halt, one might think Lauren would feel like the world had ended, but not Lauren! To her, it was just a speed bump on the road of life. Following months of hospitalization and years of physical therapy, she remains a strong, beautiful woman with a great attitude and sense of humor. Lauren did not let an accident define her; she goes to a local college, travels with family and friends, counsels other accident victims... and even plays wheelchair rugby!

"We have hope she'll someday walk again. It's hard. You never know. You go to the hospital, and no one has any answers for you. But she's really positive. She really motivates me. She's never wanted people to feel bad for her. As time goes on, I think she'll inspire people more than anything," says her older brother John.

John is a firefighting engineer in Nipomo, CA. They say that brothers and sisters share a unique blend of love, camaraderie and friendship; never more true than in this instance. John has watched Lauren struggle through recuperation and is in awe of his sister's strength and perseverance. During a camping trip with her, he learned just how frustrated she was with her inability to drive. She wasn't getting the classes she needed, was juggling work and school, and every appointment required a family discussion about transportation options. Feeling that Lauren's first true step toward independence would be to get herself from one place to another without depending on others, John decided to look into options. After some research and finding no available funding programs and realizing how expensive specialized vehicles are, he decided to combine his talents and love of adventure to start a fundraising campaign.

John has participated in triathlons for the past few years and recently completed a 300 mile bicycle ride in three days from Nipomo to the Golden Gate Bridge, Why?, one might ask..."Just because, I'm crazy," he says.

If you think 300 miles is crazy, his next endeavor is mind boggling! John will leave September 9 to ride his bicycle across the country, from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, to raise funds for Lauren.

"I posted it on Facebook to see what people thought. Within a day, there was a website with video, donation capability, maps, and I'm in total disbelief. I'm thinking, 'Wait! This is just an idea,'" John said.

"When John says he's going to do something, he'll do it," Lauren said.

What started off being just an idea is now a reality. John is absolutely thrilled with the outpouring of love and support.

Tony Hernandez, training captain for Cal Fire San Diego, will drive a follow car to serve as John's support crew. Cal Fire Capt. Steve Meikle, with help from the Cal Fire firefighters union, is contacting fire departments along John's intended route to make lodging plans. Amy Jones, executive assistant with Cal Fire in Los Osos, is coordinating planning, public information and press work. Andy Meuerle of New Jersey and the man behind John's bike will coordinate the final stages of the ride, and, of course, family and friends have been helping with just about everything, but especially getting the word out. Fluid Sports Nutrition, a San Luis Obispo-based recovery drink manufacturer, will provide supplements for the ride, and San Luis Obispo County Firefighters Benevolent Association is sponsoring the ride.

John's and Lauren's mother, Judy Byrne, will coordinate a Nor Cal Kick off pasta dinner and fundraiser for the ride on Saturday, September 8 from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. at Fremont Veteran's Hall located at 37154 2nd Street in Niles. All proceeds will go to "Lauren's Ride."

"My husband and I are so very proud of what a wonderful, loving, and caring man John has become," says Mrs. Byrne. We'll be tracking John's journey each day, and of course I will be biting my nails for six weeks till he's safe in Brooklyn... but that's what mothers do!"

"I figure if, through the course of this ride, I meet 3,000 people who are willing to donate $10 each, we'd hit our goal," John said.

If you would like to donate or learn more about Lauren's Ride, please go to

Lauren's Ride Pasta Dinner and Fundraiser
Saturday, Sept 8
6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Fremont Veteran's Hall
37154 2nd Street, Niles

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