Honoring Fathers: Man Bikes 50 Days for American Lung Associaton
What are you doing this Father’s Day? Having a cook-out? Attending church, or maybe a baseball game?
Mark Koltz won’t be doing any of that. Yes, he’ll be celebrating the life – and the legacy – of his father-in-law, but in a most unusual way. This Father’s Day Mark will be setting out on the adventure of a lifetime, riding his bicycle across America – almost 4,000 miles in 50 days – to raise money for the American Lung Association.
Mark’s father-in-law, Leo Lambert, was a loyal volunteer with the American Lung Association of Maine and New England for many years, and always played an active role during an annual cycling event, the Trek Across Maine. In fact, Leo did the ride himself at age 70, completing the 3-day, 180-mile ride on an old bike.
Mark, as a young boy, loved to ride a bike. Over the years there were times when he did a lot of riding, taking trips and seeing amazing sites. But, there were also times when life, work, and other priorities caused his bikes to collect dust… and his waistline to grow. In 2003, after a long drought from the bike, Mark found himself as he says, “in a bad place.” He weighed over 250 pounds and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. So, he dusted off his bike and began to ride again. As a result he lost 50 pounds and regained his health through better nutrition and regular exercise.
Honoring Friends and Family
Sadly, Leo was not there to share in Mark’s success. Leo passed away in early 2003. Soon after his death, Mark, along with his wife, Karen, family and friends made a commitment to honor Leo's legacy. They formed a team to ride the Trek Across Maine. The team –Leo's Legacy – has ridden since 2004 and helped raise over $75,000 to improve lung health and prevent lung disease. The Trek celebrated its 25th year in 2009 and is a popular event involving nearly 3,000 riders and 600 volunteers. The Trek is held annually on Father’s Day weekend.
In his association with American Lung over the last seven years Mark has come to know people and families impacted by lung disease. He’s seen a wide range of breathing disorders and the toll it takes on patients and families. He’s watched close friends lose loved ones to lung disease and cancer. Mark has several friends fighting with COPD, asthma, and Alpha-1, and some who’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer or are awaiting lung transplants. But living with lung disease became even more personal when Mark’s father, Barry Koltz, was diagnosed with COPD.
Fulfilling a Goal
“Last year, with my 50th birthday on the horizon, I made the decision to fulfill my life-long dream to ride across the country and to make it even more meaningful by honoring my father-in-law and celebrating the event he loved. It seemed only fitting to dedicate myself to working with the American Lung Association. I ride for my father-in-law, my dad, and the families searching for cures and support. Leo would be proud. He always put others first ... helping those in need and supporting worthy causes.”
It took Mark a while, but he’s firmly committed to living a healthy, active lifestyle not just to benefit himself and his family but to give back to the community. “I’ve dedicated myself to keeping Leo’s legacy alive. I am riding in his honor. My ride will help carry on the important work Leo started and treasured so dearly. He was, and continues to be, an inspiration to us all.”
So, when you celebrate Father’s Day this year, take a minute to think of Mark. And if you’re in the Northern tier of the United States this summer and see a group of cyclists, remember, one of them just might be Mark, riding for people with lung disease, their families – and for Leo. Slow down a bit, give him a wave… and say thank you.
You can learn more about Mark’s ride and follow his progress at www.markstrek.com.
Jane M. Martin is a licensed respiratory therapist, teacher and the founder and director of http://www.Breathingbetterlivingwell.com and author of Breathe Better, Live in Wellness.