Local bike riders ready to ride to Washington to raise money, awareness for ALS

By: Mike Koury | C&G Newspapers | Published June 3, 2024

 Thomas Henry and Mike DeLorenzo will be partaking in a more than 500-mile  bike ride as part of Pedal4ALS to raise money for ALS of Michigan.

Thomas Henry and Mike DeLorenzo will be partaking in a more than 500-mile bike ride as part of Pedal4ALS to raise money for ALS of Michigan.

Photo provided by Mike DeLorenzo


METRO DETROIT — Two metro Detroiters will test their limits by riding bicycles to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness and money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Mike DeLorenzo, of Romeo, and Thomas Henry, of Ferndale, will be participating in Pedal4ALS, a more than 500-mile bike ride June 20-30 that will raise money for ALS of Michigan.

Raising awareness to fight ALS is a personal fight for DeLorenzo, as he has seen firsthand how the disease afflicted someone he loves. His father-in-law, Thomas Schippert, was diagnosed with ALS in 2015. DeLorenzo and his wife, Rebecca, were his caregivers for the next four years until his death in 2019.

“It hits close to home when you lose a loved one to the disease, and unfortunately ALS is a death sentence,” DeLorenzo said. “There is no cure for it. The average person lives about two years. So we felt blessed having my father-in-law live four years, but some people aren’t as fortunate.”

After Schippert’s passing, DeLorenzo took Schippert’s ashes and rode a bike to places that his father-in-law never got to see, such as the Olympic flame in Squaw Valley and Yosemite National Park, and spread them there.

DeLorenzo decided to raise funds while doing so and was able to raise around $3,000 for charity during that ride. The following year, he rode his bike from the Upper Peninsula to Detroit and raised $7,000.

“During that time period from 2015 to 2019, (ALS of Michigan was) instrumental in playing a role and keeping him comfortable and actually helping us understand what ALS is,” DeLorenzo said. “They were able to get us, like, the wheelchair and then a motorized cart, ramps for his house. And then therapy for him, physical therapy, and then they have a support group that we went to. They were so important to the well-being, for four years there, of my father-in-law and for us as caregivers. So after he passed, we thought we would do something for ALS for all the things they did for us.”

DeLorenzo will be riding with his longtime friend of four decades, Henry, who also rode with DeLorenzo last year to raise money for ALS of Michigan.

“We had a great time,” Henry said. “As the trip went on, our enthusiasm grew because our audience was growing and the interest was growing and we’re raising some money and we’re seeing some great things, but the greatest thing was the healthy emotion that you’re having that people care, that they’re kind and that you’re doing something that’s good.”

Once DeLorenzo and Henry get to D.C., they plan to meet with Michigan lawmakers to share DeLorenzo’s story of his father-in-law and advocate on behalf of others with ALS in Michigan.

“Just like cancer, (ALS is) very indiscriminate, doesn’t care and disrupts lives,” Henry said. “It slowly saps away who you are. Your ability to communicate, your mobility and eventually you’re no longer able to eat or to breathe because your brain can’t fire the message to your muscles. So it’s devastating and we’re no closer to a cure and something that, gosh, of the many sad things that go on in this world, this one needs to be, I think, given a little more light and realizing that this is debilitating as cancer, but even more so.”

According to Rose Lull, fundraising and marketing manager for ALS of Michigan, Michigan has one of the highest rates for ALS. In the run-up to Pedal4ALS so far, the two have raised around $3,200 to fight ALS.

“Raising the money for ALS of Michigan, all the funds stay in the state of Michigan for those people who are suffering with ALS,” DeLorenzo said. “They are eligible for wheelchairs and whatever else they may need. So it’s important. It’s important that I am an advocate for ALS and Michigan.”