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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A RAGBRAI REPORT: Powered by determination

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brenda McVinua was thrilled to ride even a short distance in RAGBRAI Monday. She rode from Aurelia to Schaller. / Photo by Lorri Glawe
Brenda McVinua took part in a small stretch of the route that many of the RAGBRAI riders will encounter through the week, but to her, it was like riding to the moon and back.

McVinua rode from Aurelia to Hanover to Schaller, a distance of 21 miles, pedaling with only one leg; she lost her other leg to a rare illness a few years ago. The adventure showed her strength and her courage, and no one can take those from her.

She was fortunate to become a part of Adaptive Sports, an organization founded two years ago. Co-founder Mike Boone, who grew up with a blind father, is very aware that everyone wants to be treated the same and participating in sports is a challenge that should be open to people of all levels of ability.

"Participating in sports and recreation promotes better health, self-esteem, supportive relationships and overall quality of life," he said.

McVinua was made aware of Adaptive Sports last year but it came too late for her to participate in RAGBRAI. Now connected, she hopes to participate again with their help.

The objectives of Adaptive Sports of Iowa, which is associated with Iowa Sports Foundation, is to provide sporting opportunities to those that live with physical disabilities such as spinal cord injuries, birth defects, blindness, cerebral palsy and amputations.

"Sport and recreational opportunities should not be limited by physical impairments," the founders share. "Where others see disabilities, we see opportunities."

Adaptive Sports is on RAGBRAI this year to provide opportunities for persons from 10 states.

Volunteers take time to support and take away some of the barriers that stand in the way of some of the participants. Adaptive Sports transports wheelchairs for those that need them, provide for special medical needs and takes special care in finding over night spots for those that need assistance. For the blind, Adaptive Sports provides a tandem and a sighted partner. Special bikes that can be moved with arm motions, are provided for the paraplegic.

McVinua was able to ride closely with volunteer Jill Byerly of State Center, who was there in case there were problems.

Because she had to manuever her bike with only one leg, McVinua wore a clip on her shoe attached to a special pedal, which allowed her to bring the pedal up and down with her one foot. She wishes she could have trained more but is pleased to meet her goal to ride this year.

Prior to the ride, she said she would probably move "slower than molasses in January" but Byerly told her new friend that it didn't matter how fast or slow she went. She saw her strength from the moment they met.

At Schaller, the Pilot Tribune caught up again with McVinua. Though tired, there was satisfaction on her face that she had made it.

"It was harder than I thought it would be," she said. "Without the awesome help of my buddy Jill, I wouldn't have made it."

While Iowa is thought to be made up of flat country, she differs with that! She, along with the other riders, encountered many hills. On one of them, she just couldn't get the movement and ended up falling off her bike into the ditch. But Byerly was there to help.

And on three or four later hills, Byerly got off her bike and gave McVinua pushes, to assure that she made up them.

Byerly added she didn't think McVinua would have needed those pushed if it had been cooler but she was worried McVinua would over heat by exerting that extra energy to get herself to the top.

McVinua added that there were many supporters along the way that told her "to keep on going" and telling her how awesome she was.

That encouragement also kept her wanting to forge ahead.

"I knew I needed to chug ahead. I have this incredible sensation right now. It has been such a long road for me but it's great knowing I accomplished part of my goal. Next year? It's all the way, baby!"

She is the daughter of Don and Mardell McVinua.

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