The Cancer and Blood Disorders Clinic at Children’s – Minneapolis received a special visit today from Jörg Richter, a German cyclist who is biking from Washington to Connecticut to raise awareness of rare pediatric illnesses. Richter, who works for German health care insurance agency AOK, took a leave from his job to make the 4,000-plus mile journey across the country. He set out in early June, marking the start of his journey by dipping the rear wheel of his bike in the Pacific Ocean near Seattle. Throughout the next month, he traveled through Idaho, Montana and North Dakota before reaching the Twin Cities on July 20.
Richter has been an active cyclist for many years and first had the inspiration to cycle around the world when he was 8 years old. Now at age 55, he decided to cross the item off his bucket list when two close friends died unexpectedly.
“I decided that was the moment to get it done and not put off my dream,” Richter said. “So many kids and adults aren’t able to fulfill their dreams because of their diseases.” Richter said he hopes his trip will help give children with rare diseases a better chance to fulfill their dreams.
Throughout his journey, Richter has enjoyed the scenery and wildlife he has encountered — including a roadside visit from a bear in the Cascade Mountains. But the most enjoyable part of his trip has been the people he has encountered and the hospitality he has been shown.
“I’m always meeting people who welcome me and invite me to stay,” he said. Complete strangers have stopped him along his route to talk about the Bavarian flag on the back of his bike; others have donated to his cause, paid for his meals or helped him find lodging. All have been supportive of his goal to raise $20,000 for the Care-for-Rare Foundation, which reached out to Children’s to arrange the special visit.
Richter expects to make it to his final destination in Connecticut by Sept. 7, with stops along the way in Chicago, along the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls. Once he reaches the East Coast, he’ll mark the end of his journey by dipping the front wheel of his bike in the Atlantic Ocean, completing his West-to-East Coast tour of the United States.
Richter has been documenting his journey on the AOK Facebook page.