Friday, September 25, 2009
When Emily Schaller was 18 months old, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis; doctors told her parents that she wouldn't live long enough to graduate from high school. Now 27 years old, this native Detroiter proved them wrong. When not playing drums in her band, Hellen, she is busy raising awareness and funds to help fight cystic fibrosis through her foundation, Rock CF. I talked with Emily as she headed out on a cross-country bike/Vespa ride from Detroit to LA, where she hopes to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and raise awareness of CF with a national audience.
Karen: Hi Emily. Who came up with the idea to ride cross country to the Ellen Show to promote Rock CF? Could you talk about your organization?
Emily: Hey Karen. I've been trying for years to get on the Ellen show to share my story and to help bring cystic fibrosis (CF), which I have, into the mainstream. CF is an orphan disease only affecting 30,000 people but it is the #1 genetic killer of children and young adults. With the help of friends, family and many others, we launched a campaign to "Put Emily on Ellen." You've got to have a gimmick.. so riding cross country from Detroit to Burbank, CA spreading CF awareness and raising funds would be the best way to do this. Anyone can fly or drive. Why not ride a Vespa and bicycle?
Karen: Have you heard from the show?
Emily: I have a good feeling that Ellen's producers know who I am...
Karen: You were originally going to bicycle cross country, but your doc nixed that. Is he ok with you riding the Vespa on the trip instead?
Emily: Everyone's feeling good about my decision to take the Vespa cross country. After I injured my achilles tendon on the Detroit to Chicago ride I was devastated, but immediately I thought a Vespa would make a great and fun substitute. Luckily physical therapy has been paying off so I should be up to riding 30-40 miles each day.
Karen: How far are you riding each day? How long will the trip take?
Emily: Each day I'll be traveling 180-250 miles. The trip west will take 14 days total but of course weather can change that.
Karen: What route are you taking? Do you have designated city stops?
Emily: I have planned stops along the way. Major cities will be Lincoln,NE, Denver-CO, Salt Lake City-UT, Vegas and into LA. We'll stay at smaller towns along the way...like right now I am in Davenport, Iowa! The major cities coordinate with one of my sponsors, Lululemon Athletica who has stores in each of those cities.
Karen: Do you have a support crew/truck for the trip? Will it be difficult to manage your CF during the trip?
Emily: My mom and dad graciously donated their Chevy pick up truck to use as my support. It's perfect because we can load the Vespa, my bicycle, food coolers, all my med equipment and luggage in it. Plus the truck allows us to hang banners and advertisements for CF and my adventure. One of my uncles from New Jersey will be driving the support for the first week and a half. My dad is flying into Denver to meet us and finish off the trip. A great daddy daughter bonding experience will be fun! Luckily we will be staying in hotels every night so I can keep my daily CF routine under control. Loading and unloading all of my luggage and equipment will be the hardest part of the trip! Keeping up with my nutritional needs will also be very important since I'll be biking a few hours a day, every day.
Karen: Have you ridden scooters before?
Emily: I'd never ridden a Vespa or any scooter prior to deciding to buy one! When I was a kid I rode mini bikes a ton. That was fun!
Karen: How did you choose that Vespa to ride?
Emily: I have always had a thing for Vespa scooters. A few years ago I was nosing around for a vintage Vespa to ride around town but it never came through. When I was in Europe last year I saw tons of Vespa's and it made me crazy for one. Things happen for a reason, so my dream came true and I am now the proud owner of "Gesundheit Blitz", an LX 150!
Karen: Is there a website where people can follow your trip progress or make donations?
Emily: There are a few websites that will have blogs, pics and video updates each day. Donations can be made at the Emily to Ellen website. Let's Rock CF will host my blog and some pics. Spin Magazine is hosting a page that is tracking me too. I'm all over the world wide web.
Sidenote: Before Emily and her crew left Chicago, they helped track down a mugger. In Emily's words, 'Good start to the day.'