Two Conway men and supporters will bike across the country to help raise money and awareness for children battling the rare nerve disorder neurofibromatosis.
Connie Oslica and C.B. Brinkley will set out June 18 with 11 other crew members on a 3,022-mile "Race Across America," beginning at Oceanside, Calif., and ending at Annapolis, Md.
Oslica rides in honor of his 19-year-old daughter, Katie Oslica, who was diagnosed with NF at the age of 9.
Lesley Oslica, wife of Connie Oslica and mother to Katie, is president of the Arkansas Chapter of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, an organization seeking to improve the health and wellbeing of those living with NF.
"I had taken my daughter to the doctor to ask about birthmarks," Lesley Oslica said. "She had five. I read that they were a sign of NF. Her pediatrician should have known. I was scolded for being an overprotective mother and for believing everything I read."
Oslica took her daughter to a dermatologist four years later, who referred her to Children’s Hospital. It was there that the diagnosis was made.
Neurofibromatosis, according to the Children’s Tumor Foundation, is a lifelong disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body.
Lesley Oslica said that several complications arise, including blindness, deafness, deformities and learning disorders.
The Oslica family is blessed, she said, because Katie’s symptoms have remained mild.
"That can change at any time," Lesley Oslica said. "She has blood work done throughout the year and an MRI each year. Common, ordinary things that people would worry about — headaches, leg cramps — those are a constant worry for us with her."
Lesley Oslica said that since her daughter’s diagnosis, it has been her family’s mission to make Arkansas aware of NF.
"A statistic that I like to tell people is that NF is more common than cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy combined," she said. "The rate of occurrence is 1 in 3,000. It sounds like a rare disorder but it’s actually very common."
C.B. Brinkley, a close friend, will ride in honor of all children with NF.
"After learning about NF and the suffering it causes, I realized just how lucky I was to have two healthy daughters and wanted to help families living with NF," he said. "So, I’ve decided to take a leap of faith in an incredible journey across the U.S. — on a bike."
The team will test their dedication to the cause in one of the longest annual endurance events in the world as part of the Race Across America.
Eight of the 13 crew members of the RideNFor a Reason Race Across America Team are from the Conway area, Oslica said.
Four of the 13, including Connie Oslica and Brinkley, will take on the challenge in a relay-style race. Other riders are Steve Kendra and Rodney Markland.
The rest of the team, who will follow riders in an RV, is made up of friends and supporters gained from meetings traveled to in the supportive network of those living with NF.
The team will host a pancake breakfast fundraiser at Stoby’s in Conway at from 8 a.m. to noon Sunday. A specialized bike, donated by The Ride, is to be auctioned.
In four months, the team has raised $35,000 for the Arkansas chapter of the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
Oslica said the Arkansas chapter and her family are responsible for a clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital that is open to NF patients one day a week.
The group hosts annual fundraisers to support a clinic coordinator position, and funds raised in the race will continue to make the clinic available and fund other NF support programs in Arkansas.
"Anything we do in Arkansas helps people with NF in Arkansas," Oslica said.
The crew will have two follow vehicles and riders will rotate 24 hours each day for about eight days.
For more information on the RideNFor a Reason team and to make a contribution, visit www.endurenf.org.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)