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A race with only winners

Families benefit big time from annual event
It’s almost perfect symmetry.

Each spring, more than a thousand people pack a high school gym and pedal to their limits for 20 minutes on stationary bikes. Thanks to their efforts, Tyler Schwab is able to share a similar experience.

Because of the race, Tyler now knows first hand what it’s like to power a bike down the road.

Recently, Tyler, an eighth-grader at Horizon Middle School, received a tandem bicycle his family purchased using money raised through the Sanford Health Great American Bike Race, also known as GABR. The adaptive bike allows Tyler to sit in front and pedal with another rider helping from behind.

“Tyler loves the independence the bike provides him and the wind blowing in his face,” said Mike Schwab, Tyler’s father. “Overall, the experience all children get to have, he gets
to experience.”

Tyler’s physical limitations have not kept him from enjoying life to the fullest. In addition to the bike, he has an adapted fishing pole and golf cart.

“He is an amazing young man,” said Jessica Schwab, Tyler’s mom. “He has taught me about never giving up and always striving to be the best person I can be.”

  Tyler Schwab, GABR star
Thanks to funds raised through the Sanford Health Great American Bike Race, Tyler Schwab can experience riding a bike with his father, Mike.

For 15 years, GABR funds have provided similar aid to kids such as Tyler—those with cerebral palsy and related disabilities. In that time, participants have raised more than $1.5 million—including nearly $300,000 in 2011—to help central and western North Dakota families pay for medical expenses, adaptive equipment and home and vehicle modifications not covered by insurance.

Dr. Kevin Murphy
Dr. Kevin Murphy


This year’s GABR, the 16th annual edition, is 9 a.m.–3:15 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at Century High School in Bismarck.

“GABR funding makes it possible for families to obtain everyday essential items or help pay for portions of outpatient therapy services insurance will not cover,” said Dr. Kevin Murphy, Sanford Health pediatric rehabilitation doctor and the race’s founder. “While these children have unique needs, GABR funding unites them with a common goal of enhancing their lives while helping them live more independently.”

The Zent family of Dickinson knows the truth of that statement. Nathan Zent, a high school sophomore, and his family have received help from GABR funds over the years.

“For us, it’s such an important event,” said Tania Zent, Nathan’s mother. “As a parent, you never know what kind of medical expenses your child is going to have during the year and what may not be covered by insurance. It’s nice knowing there’s another place we can turn to for help when we need it.”

Most recently, the Zents installed a stair lift in their two-level, ranch-style home, which allows Nathan to access the basement without someone having to carry him up and down the stairs.

That added mobility allowed the Zents to move Nathan’s stander, a device that helps him stand to strengthen his legs, from his bedroom to the basement. The shift provides Nathan more room while using his stander for therapy and to play with his 12-year-old sister, Monica.

“That’s been a tremendous help to us,” Tania said of the lift. “It’s opened up more opportunities
to Nathan.”

Both the Schwabs and Zents participate in GABR, as well.

The Schwabs became involved almost from the event’s inception—before it outgrew its former home at the Sanford Women’s Health Center. This year, Tyler has two teams—Tyler’s Tremendous 12 and Tyler’s Crazy Cowboys.

“There’s definitely excitement in the air, and everyone seems to be jacked up on race day,” Mike said. “Tyler enjoys watching friends and family have fun and race for a good cause.”

One of the first teams to come from Dickinson, Nathan’s Patriotic Pedalers have made the trek east on Interstate 94 for seven years to be part of GABR.

“The atmosphere truly is one that is fun and upbeat,” Tania said. “Words can’t even describe it. I wish everyone would come over and see it. Unless you're in the gym, you can't even tell how exciting it is."

Click here for more information on Sanford Rehabilitation Center or call 701.323.6097.

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