Noah Williams’ happy place is the outdoors. “He was a nature baby who has grown into a nature kid,” said his mother Naomi. And come August, the 9-year-old Georgia resident will embark in a …
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Noah Williams’ happy place is the outdoors.
“He was a nature baby who has grown into a nature kid,” said his mother Naomi.
And come August, the 9-year-old Georgia resident will embark in a Colorado outdoor adventure with Goldenite Helen Gardner.
“Not only will it be fun for him, it will be a joy for me,” said Gardner, 34, an avid cyclist and general manager of Big Ring Cycles in Golden. “His smile will help keep me going and give me strength when things get really hard.”
On Aug. 28, Gardner and Williams will be going on a multiday, 158-mile bicycle ride on the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway located near Crested Butte and Gunnison.
Williams was born three-and-a-half months premature and has cerebral palsy. Gardner will be pulling him in a trailer on her bike for the entire ride. Currently, Williams weighs about 60 pounds, but he’s in the middle of a growth spurt, Naomi Williams said. With the cart, Gardner will be pulling a total of about 90-95 pounds, plus her own weight and the weight of her bike.
Gardner has been doing much of her training on Lookout Mountain, pulling an empty trailer. But on July 15, she’ll get help from Wheat Ridge athlete PJ Snyder.
“Noah is not local so she needed training before his arrival,” said PJ Snyder’s mother Cindy. “We wanted to do what we could to help her.”
PJ Snyder, 32, has Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes seizures, spinal curvature and balance issues. He weighs 72 pounds, meaning Gardner will be pulling a total of 104 pounds for the training ride.
Snyder is an accomplished athlete — participating in events at least once a month year-round — and has experience with long-distance cycling adventure.
Last summer, he and Dennis Vanderheiden, a multi-sport athlete who founded the Fort Collins-based nonprofit Athletes in Tandem, rode together on a 600-mile fundraising ride from the Four Corners to Golden. Athletes in Tandem pairs disabled and nondisabled athletes to compete together in mainstream cycling and running events and triathlons.
Gardner and Williams’ ride will support the Kyle Pease Foundation — a Georgia-based nonprofit that helps athletes with disabilities meet their individual goals through sports, and provides programs such as scholarship opportunities, educational campaigns to create awareness about disabilities and assistance to help athletes purchase medical or adaptive sports equipment.
Gardner met Noah and Naomi Williams in October 2015, when she was still living in Georgia. They have since become good friends, Gardner said, and she is looking forward to introducing both of them to Colorado.
Naomi Williams has been to Denver once for a conference about 15 years ago, she said, and didn’t get to experience anywhere else in the state. This will be her son’s first trip to Colorado.
“They’re both a lot of fun to be around,” Gardner said, adding they’ll probably enjoy Colorado because it’s “a beautiful place.”
Doctors told Naomi Williams that Noah would have significant disabilities, and that he would never crawl or walk.
But Naomi Williams has always enjoyed the outdoors and wanted to expose her son to as many outdoor activities as possible, she said. And ever since he was about 3 years old, he has participated in 5-and-10K races, half and full marathons and triathlons.
“He is a multi-sport and endurance kiddo,” Naomi Williams said.
In addition, about six months ago, Noah Williams was able to take a few assisted steps, Naomi Williams said.
Naomi Williams is looking forward to the experience, she said, but more the outcome — everyone’s growth because of it, the exposure the athletes will receive, the inspiration that all will feel and the inclusion of pairing a disabled and nondisabled athlete.
Gardner describes her cycling adventure with Noah Williams as a “sweet experience.”
“I’m really excited to do this,” she said.
Along with promoting the inclusion of athletes with disabilities, Gardner hopes her ride inspires people to “think outside of the box” of what’s perceived as normal, she said.
For example, Gardner said, “Noah is nonverbal. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to motivate me and express that he’s having an awesome time.”
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