Six years ago at St. Luke’s Hospice in Bethlehem, Penn., Tara Wright turned to her son, J.W. Frye, and sent a spark into Frye that would prompt him to ride across North America.
Frye, back in Sarasota following to benefit hospice, described the conversation with his mom to an audience on Sunday at a Sarasota Celebrates Volunteers event at Payne Park Auditorium.
He asked his mom how she was feeling about her diagnosis with terminal brain cancer.
“I asked my mom, ‘Are you sad. Are you angry? How do you feel?' ” Frye said. “And she looked at me and gave me the biggest freaking smile.”
She then told Frye it was simply an experience that was going to change countless lives. How, she did not know.
Her faith and strength eventually prompted Frye to bicycle 8,000 miles and spread awareness of hospice across the country. He biked for six months, from Feb. 23 until Aug. 23. But that distance, says Frye, is nothing compared to the gap hospice bridges between families, how it brings loved ones together during the final six months of someone’s life.
Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell delivered a proclamation and named Oct. 16 Volunteer Day.
“Volunteering is the lifeblood of a thriving town,” Atwell said. “And it’s alive and well in Sarasota.”
Hospice is all volunteer, all free, all the time.
And Frye encourages involvement in volunteerism. When offered a chance to help people in a major way, will someone say, “No”? Or will they say, “Yes,” and leave this life with a trail of benevolence that lingers forever, unlike wealth or fame or other temporary trappings?
Representatives from , the local hospice, were in attendance, as were other non-for-profit organizations. So were representatives from St. Luke’s, who flew in to listen to Frye tell stories from his trip. His adventures included (once, a bear nosed its snarling face into his tent), a tag-along stuffed turtle, and an unusual visit from a small bird that perched on his shoulder, pecked bugs off his face and groomed his hair. That friendly encounter happened at a particularly lonely time for Frye and helped inspire him.
“That just goes to show,” Frye said, “that you’re never alone.”
Frye’s non-for-profit company is Let Me Go: One Bike One Cause.
“Can you imagine a world in which you do not go?” Frye said.
Frye encourages you to go.
Don’t worry about how you’ll accomplish it. Frye told the audience he often wondered in British Columbia if he would live. But there he was at , chipper and walking without a hitch.
His equipment was auctioned. It included the shirt he wore during the trip and his "bear-proof" tent. All proceeds from the celebration went toward volunteering projects.
Frye’s message went toward what he believes is a meaning of life.
“We’re all here on a journey,” he said. “And this experience is about [transforming] you life and serving other's lives in a way only you can."