Riding For His Reasons

Barrington’s Bob Lee passes the “Ride For 3 Reasons” torch to Barrington High School student Jan Gierlach.

Bob Lee has biked three rides around the perimeter of the United States. The reason why he decided to take on these rides was to raise awareness and support for those affected by cancer, ALS, or in need of hospice. He biked almost 12,000 miles over the course of these three journeys. This amounted to about 10 month’s total time that his wife, Anne, was not able to see him. However, they talked daily, and Anne was his biggest supporter through the biking challenges he battled through.


There is no doubt that Lee has inspired so many people to unite and fight for those in need, and now the baton is being passed to an ambitious 17-year-old Barrington High School student.

In 2007, Lee spoke about the Ride For 3 Reasons at Hough Street Elementary School. As he talked about raising awareness and support for those affected by ALS, cancer, or needing hospice, he captivated the attention of third-grader Jan Gierlach. When Gierlach heard Lee talk with zest for helping those in need, he had an epiphany. From that day forward, he became fixated on doing exactly what Lee did. Gierlach believes he was there for a reason that day as his parents are biking enthusiasts that have their own local bike shop.

The words that stuck with Gierlach the most from Lee’s speech were, “If you can dream it, then you can achieve it.” At this moment he realized it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Even though Gierlach is a devoted biker, he has not biked to the extent as he will in this upcoming adventure.

In February 2017, Gierlach will embark on almost the exact same journey that Lee did in 2001. He will depart from San Diego, California, and bike down the southern perimeter to St. Augustine, Florida. This journey will amount to a total of about 3,300 miles. Gierlach believes that although this may sound frightening at first, he feels that we must trust others as much as we trust ourselves.

At only 17-years-old for such a mission, Gierlach has no fear of being alone in rural parts of the United States for long durations. In fact, he is rather anxious to do it, and he is most excited about having the same wonderful experiences that Lee had. The best part about the rides for Lee was being able to take in the beauty of our country at a gradual pace, and meeting some caring people that were enthused about supporting the cause. Knowing that Lee has not had one bad experience with anyone over the course of his rides makes Gierlach feel much more confident.

A Ride Across America Benefits NorthWestern

Bob Lee rides for a purpose: To raise money to help others.

People ride bikes for many reasons. When Bob Lee of Barrington, Illinois, pedals he does it for three: to support ALS research, hospice care and cancer studies. And he rides in a big way: not around the block but across the country. Since 2001, this now 74 year old has completed three trips — close to 12,000 miles altogether — and raised $1.35 million. For the next “Ride for 3 Reasons” campaign, Lee is passing the torch to another cyclist, who will make a coast-to-coast journey from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida, in February 2017.


From the beginning, Ride for 3 Reasons has supported the Les Turner ALS Foundation — a longstanding partner of Northwestern Medicine — to advance ALS research. Next year, charitable dollars from the nonprofit organization will again support Les Turner as well as the National Hospice Foundation. And, for the first time, the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University will be the beneficiary of the ride’s third focus, cancer research.

“We need to be thoughtful stewards of our donors’ contributions,” says Lee. “The Lurie Cancer Center tells a passionate story of excellent patient care and innovative research based on developing specific treatments for each individual’s particular tumor type and needs. We are very impressed by this approach.”

When Jan Gierlach was a third grader at Hough Street Elementary in Barrington, he listened to fellow Barrington resident Bob Lee talk about his 6,500-mile bicycle ride from Florida to Maine in 2007 during a classroom presentation.

As the founder of Ride for 3 Reasons Lee, who was 65 years old at the time, was raising funds for cancer and ALS research, and hospice education during his cross-country journey.

“I remember being so enchanted with the idea of riding across the country,” said Gierlach, 17, an incoming senior at Barrington High School. “The dream has stuck with me ever since.”

In his junior year, Gierlach started planning his own cross-country trip for early February 2017, mapping out a 3,300-mile solo bicycling tour from San Diego to Augustine, Fla. Gierlach also plans to graduate early from Barrington High in December to create the time needed to complete the long bicycle ride.

Know The 3 reasons To Help the Causes

In the U.S., someone is diagnosed with ALS every 90 minutes and every 90 minutes someone with ALS dies.

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a rapidly progressive, terminal disease that causes muscle weakness, difficulty speaking and swallowing and generally,complete paralysis. There is no known cure for ALS and once diagnosed, patients typically live three to five years.

the 3 reasons

The Les Turner ALS Foundation, founded in 1977, is Chicago’s leader in research, patient care and education about ALS, serving nearly 90 percent of people with ALS (PALS) in the area, offering hope and help when it’s needed most. The Foundation’s full spectrum patient service programs include in-home consultations, support groups, equipment loans and educational programs. The Foundation offers hope for a future without ALS by supporting the Les Turner ALS Research and Patient Center at Northwestern Medicine, bringing together three research laboratories and a multidisciplinary patient clinic under one umbrella.

In 2016, it is estimated that there will be 1,685,210 new cases of cancer of any site and an estimated 595,690 people will die of this disease.

The Cancer Center was first established at Northwestern University in 1974. In 1991 the center was dedicated as the Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center of Northwestern University through a gift of endowment from Ann and Robert H. Lurie. The center’s title was modified in 1997, when it was awarded the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) highly competitive “comprehensive” designation — reflecting the Lurie Cancer Center’s dedication to the highest standards of cancer research, patient care, education, and community outreach.

Today, the Lurie Cancer Center is one of only 45 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation. It is affiliated with four teaching hospitals in Chicago, treating more than 10,000 new cancer cases each year.

In 2014, an estimated 1.6 million patients received services from hospice. This estimate includes patients who died while receiving hospice care, patients who received care in 2013 and who continued to receive care into 2014 (known as “carryovers”) • patients who left hospice care alive in 2014 for various reasons.

Considered the model for quality compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness, hospice provides expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient’s loved ones as well. Hospice focuses on caring, not curing. In most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home but may also be provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities. Hospice services are available to patients with any terminal illness or of any age, religion, or race.