Gillfillan ‘Pays It Forward’ With a Century Ride Dedicated to His Mom
Don Gillfillan prepares to hit the road, training for his Sept. 22 Century Ride honoring his Mother. (Tom Kocal)
By TOM KOCAL | Prairie Advocate News
LANARK – Don Gillfillan has found a way to combine raising money for a good cause with riding a bike. From Don’s perspective, the art of bicycle riding is not something he takes for granted.
Many Lanark-area residents were used to seeing Don sitting behind a desk at the Exchange State Bank of Lanark. That is, until his retirement in November of 2011. Today, Don and his wife, Jan, are more likely seen sitting - and pedaling - around Eastern Carroll County.
“Jan and I have been riding bicycles off and on for several years,” Don said. “I began to take it more seriously in February while in Arizona over the winter. Over the course of a 3-month period, I biked 600 miles. I really enjoy riding.”
Don’s friend, Jeff Furnia, retired this past May (Jeff and his wife, Ellen, have a home at Lake Carroll). Within a 6-week period, Jeff and a friend rode 2,750 miles - from Key West, Florida to Bar Harbor, Maine - and raised $5500 for the ALS Association (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
“As I was putting miles on my bike back here in the Northern Illinois hills, I realized if it were not for my Mom, St. Francis Hospital in Peoria, and the March Of Dimes, I would probably not be walking let alone riding a bike.
Don had contracted polio at 5 years of age. “Or should I say it contracted me.”
At its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, polio (paralytic poliomyelitis) would paralyze or kill over half a million people worldwide every year. In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic would be the worst outbreak in the nation’s history.
“I got in contact with OSF Saint Francis Medical Center (formerly St. Francis Hospital) to get some details of my time in the hospital. I thought it was 1949 and 1950, but learned it was 1950 and 1951. Dr. Cantebury was my doctor.
“I remember some things from when I was in the hospital yet today. When I entered the hospital I could not raise either leg off the bed. I was put in a whirlpool of very hot water for 20 minutes or so then given muscle exercises, especially the most affected area (my left leg). After some time I could lift my right leg and raise my left leg an inch off the bed. I remember this as a major accomplishment - probably got rewarded with ice cream or something.
“After 4-5 months I was well enough to be sent home with regular check-ups. My Mom put me in a hot bath every day for 20 minutes then put me through the exercises. She did this daily until I graduated from the 8th grade. Also, Mom sold greeting cards for many years to pay 100% of the money back to March of Dimes.
“As you can see I have a very good reason to dedicate this ride to my parents, especially my Mom. She went the extra mile on two fronts.”
Don’s dad, Jack passed away in 2006, and his mother, Dorothy in 2007. Because of her loving support and dedication to his healing, Don is dedicating a 100-mile “Century Ride” to his Mom, which will take place on Saturday, September 22, 2012. He will be accompanied by his friend, Jeff Furnia. The ride will begin from the front door of St. Francis in Peoria to his former home in Watseka - 100 miles on the nose.
For the past several months, Don has been training here in Northwest Illinois, building up his strength in the rolling hills of Carroll County for what he hopes is an easier ride in the flatter terrain around Watseka.
“My goal is to survive the ride and use my time to raise a few bucks for a good cause in the process,” Don joked.
Don is asking for a minimum pledge of only 10¢ per mile, or $10.
Don will pay for his own food, lodging, and any other expenses, with 100% of the funds that come in specifically for the Children’s Hospital going to their Foundation.
“Any funds that come in from my church family (Crossroads Church in Freeport) will go to the ‘Team Power Kidz’ program that helps under-served children in the Freeport area.”
The Children’s Hospital of Illinois Foundation is dedicated to ensuring Children’s Hospital has the resources it needs “to make miracles happen every day.” The total funds raised for Children’s Hospital are put to use in many ways. From equipment to programs, such as Neonatal Intensive Care, Parent’s Support Fund, Pediatric Intensive Care, and Research Grants, these expenditures sustain and support the needs of the children.
For over 20 years, Children’s Hospital has operated with the belief that no child - regardless of ability to pay - will be denied medical care. This principle is always forefront in their vision and guides their directives to provide focus on treating medical needs of children and offering financial support programs for children’s families in need.
If you wish to support Don Gillfillan’s Century Ride and his effort to “pay it forward” in memory of his mother, please send your donation to:
226 S. Will St.
Lanark, IL 61046
If you would like more details or have any questions, please call 815-493-2684.