When New Yorkers Dave and Kaete Nazaroff looked at Facebook photos of Tripp Halstead, the 2-year-old Barrow County boy severely injured by a falling limb last October, they couldn’t help but see their own little boy George.
Same age, same smile, same blond hair sticking straight up in the air.
“My wife couldn’t get it out of her head,” said Nazaroff, co-owner of three bike shops and a veteran triathlete and Iron Man competitor. “What if this happened to us?”
One day, his wife suggested a way to help Tripp and his family with a fundraising jaunt: “Do you think you can you ride your bike to Atlanta?”
No problem, said Nazaroff.
Now, not many 46-year-old men would say an 880-mile bike trip from Nyack, N.Y., to Atlanta was no problem.
But Nazaroff, a formidable athlete, plans to make the trip in five days to deliver a check.
Stacy and Bill Halstead, Tripp’s parents, posted a link to an Internet fundraising page the Nazaroffs created, and the donations came pouring in from his triathlete friends at the TOGA Multisport Club, from Atlantans and from elsewhere.
“Our Facebook page went crazy,” Nazaroff said earlier this week, enjoying pizza with his family before his Wednesday morning departure. “In the first eight weeks, we were averaging $10,000 a week.”
He plans to arrive in Atlanta Monday with a check for $127,000, part of which will be administered by Sunshine on a Ranney Day, a non-profit that renovates rooms for children with long-term illnesses.
Trip was outside his Winder daycare center last October 29 when high winds associated with Hurricane Sandy brought down a tree limb. The limb struck Tripp on the head, fracturing his skull, and the toddler has been through multiple surgeries and many months in the hospital since then.
Nazaroff said his mission is to provide funds that will make it possible for Stacy Halstead to stay out of work and take care of her child.
“My goal is that Stacy doesn’t have to worry about anything,” he said, “that she doesn’t have to worry about going to work, that she can take him to every single therapy session, that she can be there and give him love.”
He planned to pedal between 165 and 185 miles each day. His team will be following in a van, a task that he doesn’t envy. “Sitting in a van, going 15 miles an hour for 12 hours, that’s like watching paint dry,” he said.
His path took him from Nyack to Lancaster, Pa., on Wednesday and then into the Shenandoah Valley. On Thursday he stayed in New Market, Va., and on Friday afternoon his wife reported he was on time and halfway to his next stop in Christiansburg, Va.
“I am in awe of him,” said Stacy Halstead of Nazaroff. “I can’t comprehend that he can ride that far, and he would do it for a child he’s never met.”
The Halsteads plan to meet Nazaroff at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 1 at the Kroger in Jefferson, Ga., 1685 Old Pendergrass Road, and will ride the last mile with him to the Jefferson Recreation Complex, 2495 Old Pendergrass Road. Nazaroff plans to tow Tripp witth him, on a special bicycle trailer. Those who want to join the ride should register at the Kroger at 9 a.m.
Nazaroff will be in mountainous territory for much of the trip — “It looks like a sawblade on Google maps” — but there is no flat pathway from New York to Atlanta that doesn’t involve a boat.
Said Nazaroff, “I do Iron Man ‘cause it’s fun. Her being in the hospital for seven months, sleeping by his side, that’s endurance.”