By Karen Billing
The first annual “Bike 4 Mike” fundraising bike ride will be held on Sunday, Nov. 4, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to raise money for Team Godfather, an organization devoted to finding treatment and a cure for ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The event is in celebration of “The Godfather,” Mike Ramirez, a local resident who died in April 2012 at age 56 from the devastating disease.
The event will begin and end at the fairgrounds with three different distances for riders to choose: 10, 25 or 50 miles on the scenic coastline. The 10-mile and 25-mile courses will be relatively flat while the 50-mile course will feature some challenging hills. Additionally, for those not as comfortable riding the road, there will be a spin bike class at the fairgrounds run by Solana Beach fitness studio BodyROK.
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a progressive disorder that causes permanent paralysis and destroys nerve cells that control muscle movement. Some 5,600 Americans are diagnosed every year and people typically live three to five years after diagnosis. There is currently no cure or treatment.
“The remarkable thing about Mike was that he really felt that God chose him, that it was his destiny, that it was meant to be that he would be a link to finding a cure,” said Scott McCauley, one of Mike’s friends and event sponsor. “I truly believe that destiny, that’s why I have been so passionate about it.”
Greg Sacks, one of Mike’s best friends and a Team Godfather board member, said everyone is passionate about the event and the cause because of Mike and who he was.
Ramirez was the executive vice president, San Diego south regional manager and head of the corporate banking group for Pacific Western Bank. The University of San Diego graduate competed in marathons and triathlons and was an avid golfer and cyclist. He was always active—he studied karate, practiced yoga and played in the Over the Line beach volleyball tournament.
Mike was diagnosed with ALS in September of 2009.
“It’s a pretty devastating diagnosis,” said Sacks. “It’s one of those hypothetical questions people ask themselves, you’re given two years to live, what do you want to do with the rest of your life?”
Sacks said Mike and his family spent time processing the diagnosis and what it meant, but just three weeks later, they fundraised for and participated in the Walk to Defeat ALS in Mission Bay. More than 250 friends and family showed up to support him and he was able to raise over $3,500.
Mike, a father of two children, Michael Jr. and Colleen, decided that he would devote the time he had left to fundraising and helping find a cure, founding Team Godfather with his wife Maureen.
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