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Why I Ride for Ryther: Siri’s Story

On July 13-14, a team of seven Ryther supporters, including six staff members, will be cycling 202 miles from Seattle to Portland to raise awareness and funds for Ryther.  Siri Gillespie is one of these riders. Read on to see what inspired Siri to ride:

As I begin my back-to-back 50+ mile training bike rides this week, my battle wounds will be the only reminder I need that I must keep going.  I have a large bruise and scrapes on the back of my leg, puncture wounds on my hands, and an open sore on my ankle.  This was not due to one of the many minor crashes I’ve had upon my bicycle, but the result of a Razor scooter accident I was involved in while supervising children at Ryther’s Cottage C.

This summer Cottage C has introduced an exercise program to encourage healthy habits in our clients.  Prior to earning the privilege of playing video games and watching movies for activity time, the children of Cottage C must complete at least 20 minutes of exercise.  Yesterday we held a cottage-wide kickball game.  Today, the kids I was supervising chose to ride Razor scooters.

Being the athletic, well-trained cyclist I consider myself to now be, I couldn’t have been more excited!  The children led me on a wild follow-the-leader game that ended with me careening down a pebbled sidewalk in the rain on one of the Cottage scooters.  In my attempt to slow down on a hill, I inevitably fishtailed on wet cement and crashed.  One girl I was supervising, an anxious and impulsive pre-teen, rushed to my side with a look of concern on her face.  The other girl, a quiet, yet precocious 9-year-old looked on in silent horror awaiting my reaction.

I looked around, looked at my bloodied hands, and hoped the pain I was feeling didn’t show on my face.  The pre-teen exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, Siri, are you OK?!”  “Yes, I’m fine,” I replied, “Thank you.”  The pre-teen put her hand on my shoulder as I winced as I stood up.  “Oh my gosh, you’re bleeding!”  In that moment, I recognized something I’d never truly seen in that young woman.  It was empathy.  “I’m ok.  Ouch, let’s walk inside,” I said as I limped toward the cottage.  That pre-teen checked on me twice more that morning to assure I was alright.

My wounds were superficial, but the impact of the experience was not.  The young woman, who spends much of her time consumed by the residual effects of extreme trauma and internalized low self-worth, typically has little time to outwardly express concern for others.  In this case, and for the first time I’ve witnessed, her concern for someone else and the relationship she’d built with me seemed to supersede her perpetual inner turmoil.  It is for that young lady I will ride for.  It is that young girl; that split moment when she was able to create a space between herself and her trauma to make room for a trusting relationship she’d built; it is her I will ride for.

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