Rick Diefenderfer comes full circle with Easterseals

CGN Global’s Rick Diefenderfer attended the annual Easterseals Central Illinois board meeting, held in Peoria, Illinois, on Thursday, August 24th, to present a check.

Diefenderfer recently embarked on a bicycle ride across America, from Santa Monica, California to New York, New York, to raise money for children with autism. The initiative was coined Rick’s Easterseals Ride for Kids & Progress. The ride went from the end of May to the July 4th holiday.

Rick followed the old Route 66 from Santa Monica, California to Chicago, Illinois, traveling through California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois.

On his way through Illinois, Rick stopped in Peoria, home of Easterseals Central Illinois. Diefenderfer met up with Easterseals iCan Bike graduates, a program that teaches children with disabilities how to ride a two-wheel bike, and rode downtown to Peoria’s Gateway Building.

“After three weeks, to be able to come in and celebrate, both with the kids ride, and having a CGN picnic afterwards, it just brought it home, with regards to what you are doing (the ride) for,” explained Diefenderfer.

Following this stretch, Rick and his followers, typically someone riding alongside him, for small durations of the trip, and a sagger (person driving a vehicle, providing Rick with the proper directions), made their way from Illinois, into Indiana, and over to Pennsylvania.

While in Pennsylvania, Rick made a stop in his home town.

“The trip went right through my home town. My mom and dad coordinated with the local newspaper that did an article on our trip, which added funds for Easterseals,” said Diefenderfer.

After his stop in Pennsylvania, Diefenderfer began the final stretch into “The Big Apple,” with a new sagger.

From Pennsylvania to New York, Rick’s father became his sagger. Rick reached Manhattan on his father’s 80th birthday, finishing the ride with a dual celebration.

Also meeting Rick on Times Square, were a few members of the CGN Global team, congratulating him on completing his journey.

When asked about the hardest part of the trip, Rick commented, “Two stretches that were extremely tough were going over the Rockies, with temperatures hitting 115 degrees. My bile gage read 126 degrees. High elevation, major climbs, and the heat, made it very strenuous. The other part of it was the Appalachian Mountains, which were a lot smaller, but relentless. You never had a break between hills. So you went up one mountain side, right back down, and immediately start another climb.”

Through the hot, long days of the summer, going from west to east, Rick remains forever thankful for the support that he had from his company, CGN Global, his family and friends from day one.

“When you are doing the ride itself, you’re thinking this is day three and I’ve got thirty days to go, and this is painful,” said Diefenderfer. “Then you think about the cause. It keeps you going. You get to Peoria. You see the kids. Now it’s really registering. You see the charity balance growing each night, and seeing that the reason you started is coming true. That’s special.”

The funds raised will be used to support the launch of The Autism Collective, envisioned to become the one place for state-of-the-art diagnosis, treatment, education, information, and support for those living with Autism. Phase 1 of the The Autism Collective is a collaboration between Easterseals and OSF Healthcare Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

On behalf of Easterseals, Rick would like to thank everyone that has contributed to this cause. Rick’s ride raised $18,180 for The Autism Collective.

Images from the ride