Published on PNJ.com
Diane Lea has spent more than two years planning for her 50th birthday.
She hasn’t picked out a cake or a place to eat dinner yet, but she has picked 50 causes she wants to raise awareness for over the course of a 50-day, 2,500 mile bike ride from San Diego to Pensacola.
“It all started because I just didn’t know what to do for my 50th birthday,” Lea said. “I just kept thinking, I want to do something for someone else — it’s time to give back.”
The Pace resident surveyed her skill set and thought about how she’d been riding her bike frequently throughout the area for different charitable bike riding events.
“I thought, OK great, I can ride a bike — but how can I make that special?” she said.
Then she got on the 50s kick. She thought about riding her bike for 50 miles a day, but that didn’t seem special enough and wasn’t necessarily helping anyone, and then she thought about extending it into a 50-day trip, to stay with the 50s theme, but the idea still lacked an overall purpose.
Lea started thinking about her friends and family and the kind of things that affect them daily.
“I realized I couldn’t just pick one one or two things to raise awareness for on the ride, so I thought heck, might as well do 50,” she said.
Lea’s close friend Yolanda Diaz was with her when the idea for the 50 Causes Ride was born.
“I immediately thought it was an amazing idea, because I know Diane and I know it’s something she could and would do,” Diaz said. “She’s just do driven and when she is determined to do something- it’s going to happen.”
Diaz said she was impressed with Lea’s diligent training regime for the ride and knows the 50 daily miles will be easily accomplished.
“She’s just been so committed to the entire process and I’m so excited and proud of her,” she said.
Lea even left her job in the Urology field in order to give her full attention to the 50 Causes Ride, but noted she feels like she’s working harder than ever.
On Friday, Lea will set out for California in an RV, and as soon as she arrives in San Diego, she will begin riding back toward Pensacola on her bicycle, promoting a different cause for each of the 50 days she rides.
Lea and a group of her friends and supporters have started a website, 50causesride.com, and a Facebook page of the same name, in order to raise awareness for each cause over the course of the ride. Lea’s friend and professional videographer Liz Watkins will travel along with Lea on the trip inside the RV, and is gathering clips in hopes of making a documentary after the ride is complete.
Lea and Watkins will make short videos each day, focusing on each individual cause and the people they encounter along the ride, and will share them on social media.
“Many of the diseases or causes I am going to be raising awareness for are very rare diseases and a lot of people who are affected by those diseases don’t have as many support networks to reach out to,” she said.
Several families who have a loved one with a rare disease have already reached out to Lea, and are hoping to meet up with her on her ride across the country.
“The more people who we can get involved, the more awareness we can bring to these diseases— I just want to meet as many people as I can and get as many people involved as possible,” she said.
Visit Diane Lea’s website to see a full list of the causes she will ride for and or follow along with her on her 50-day ride at www.50causesride.com, or 50 Causes Ride on Facebook.
Video refer: Take a look at the route Lea will take and the ways you can become involved in the 50 Causes Ride.