“Everyone has a story to tell. Mine is one of hope and second chances for my son Josh,” says Danny.
Every pound of force that 60-year-old cyclist Danny Schnell exerts in pedaling his bicycle across the country is to raise awareness for Indiana Donor Network Foundation.
He’ll brave snow, rain, sleet until the sun covers his face and he feels light on his feet, and he’s pedaling faster now, at lightning speed. Dirt behind his wheels, leaves blowing in the breeze, until he tapers. Danny left his home on Schnellville Road in Schnellville, Indiana (population 200) on January 24 to cross six states in a ride to support his son who received a lifesaving organ.
Danny is riding a silver Trek 7300 Hybrid bicycle until he sees the sign: “Welcome to New Orleans.” This is life on the road. The trip marks his 40th to New Orleans for Mardis Gras, a time when colorful lights dazzle – you know the feeling of excitement – like when a child first discovers his own shadow.
Danny has taken similar trips in the past, some long, some short. Some trips he remembers more than others. In 2006 while raising money for Hurricane Katrina, Danny was struck by a car. But, like many avid cyclists, he started pedaling again, visualizing the open road and putting self-doubt behind him, riding through the wind and appreciating the human body for its resiliency.
“Do what you want while you can,” says Danny, and his words trail off. He conveys both wisdom and a sense of enthusiasm. Life is full of surprises. In July 2003, Danny learned his son, Josh, 18, needed a kidney transplant after complaining of being winded and out of breath. At St. Vincent Evansville, Danny stared at his son’s pain-creased face: white complexion, bags under his eyes, heavy lids, his own jaw tense, and the space between them filled with silence. Josh had been losing a considerable amount of weight. He had been more tired than usual. His parents didn’t think it was unusual until their son required a physical for a new job. Josh’s mother suffered from kidney disease. Would Josh be OK?
Seven days in a hospital are long. Danny remembers the hum and buzz of machines, the pitter patter of footsteps, blinding florescent lights, the scraping of hospital chairs, whispers in the night and patients being wheeled. Six months later, December 2003, Josh received the good news. He would be receiving a kidney transplant. Today, Josh is healthy, and Danny is celebrating New Orleans style.
Danny, the real estate investor, the former cabinetmaker and U.S. postal worker, will now add advocate to his list. He’ll get to see a blue sky, the horizon, brown buildings and tall trees. The world is blurry and fast, and for a moment, he says, time will last. He’ll think of his son, Josh, who received a second chance at life, receiving a kidney from a donor and then one from his wife. And Danny will get a renewed sense of purpose, a high-speed lightheartedness, as he pedals his bicycle across the country to raise awareness for Indiana Donor Network. To contribute to Danny’s fundraising effort, go to IndianaDonorNetwork.org/give.
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