Annapolis, Maryland June 23, 2014 - Called the "World's Toughest Bike Race," international cyclist Joe Barr from Derry and Donegal, Ireland, and his seven-member Team Ireland crew made sports history by completing the 3020-mile Race Across America (RAAM) from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland in just eleven days.
At the RAAM -2014 celebration dinner in Annapolis, Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley designated June 23 "Race Across America, HOPECAM and Team Ireland Day" throughout the state.
The Founder of HOPECAM-USA, Len Forkas, said “Team Ireland and Joe Barr don’t know the meaning of the word quit. They are profoundly inspirational leaders in the goal of establishing of 'Hopecam - IRELAND' in 2015.” Both Forkas and Barr know the personal challenges that families hit by cancer face on a daily basis. Both have cancer-stricken family members - Forkas' son and Barr's son and wife suffer from the disease. Cancer leaves children in particular almost totally isolated from their school, their friends and their normal lives. Forkas' solution became Hopecam, a U.S.-based charity that uses technology to overcome the social isolation. The two men met near the top of the Colorado Rockies riding in RAAM-2012 where the Irishman almost died from oxygen deprivation and a partial lung collapse. A deep friendship developed; now both are working to take Hopecam over the pond to Ireland where an estimated 465 children are fighting to survive cancer annually.
Barr, who celebrated his 55th birthday in-route, placed second in the 50-59 year age group. At the finish line, an amazingly energetic Barr thanked his wife and family for their love, support and the encouragement of Team Ireland's goal of realizing Hopecam - IRELAND. Calling his Team Ireland "the magnificent seven," Barr stated that it wasn't just an 11-day challenge, it was four years of dedication and hard work to accomplish their own "mission impossible" of riding across America on a bike. "I am indebted to our sponsors, contributors and the wonderful young people who are battling cancer. They are my inspiration!,” stated Barr.
Team Ireland ensured that throughout Barr's 18-hour day trek as as a solo rider, he was provided the logistical, communications, nutritional, medical and morale support required to safely reach Annapolis within the twelve day time limit for all RAAM participants. In addition, they helped secure the financial sponsorships from companies like Sodexo USA, DSC, skechers, IFS, BRL Sports Nutrition and others, as well as individuals, families and groups of friends inspired by Barr's vision and sacrifice.
During Barr’s 11 days of riding across the United States, he took the time each evening to personally call children with cancer to share with them his journey and to let them know that they were the reason he was competing in RAAM 2014. During one call, he told a child his favorite food is pizza. Underscoring Barr's ability to motivate and inspire, five of the children he called were there to see him cross the finish line and then shared a pizza with him. In the end, it was big Baltimore pizza pie that brought Ireland, America and hope for kids with cancer together.
Hopecam is a U.S. based 501c3 charity with the mission of using technology to overcome the social isolation—among the first side effects of treatment—of children with cancer. They give the children iPads, pay for Internet access if the family is without, then work with the school to persuade them to establish a regular Skype video chat connection with the child. Founded 11 years ago by the parent of a child with cancer, Hopecam has grown to serve hundreds of children across the United States. All services are provided free to the families and schools thanks to the generosity of donors. For additional information about Hopecam, or to make a donation, contact: Executive Director Susan Koehler at 703.364.5606 or susan(at)hopecam(dot)org. Visit http://www.hopecam.org to learn more.