John McCormack above as he drove cross country in support of Easter Seals and his daughter Haven.
By Emmsie Sanders
On July 1, 2015, John McCormack set out on a month long journey that would weave together his love of family, adventure and motorcycles into a tapestry of connection, awareness and donations for Easter Seals. For 34 straight days, John rode his Kawasaki KLR 650 on off-road dirt paths from New York to Los Angeles, enduring every weather and road condition, and challenging his physical stamina. The heat, cold, rain, snow, mud, rocks, plains, mountain and desert shaved 40 pounds from his 6 foot frame. He named the trail Haven’s Road.
The idea to ride across the country off-road had been a dream of John’s for a long time. It was one of those ‘one day, maybe I’ll get around to it, low priority ‘bucket list’kind of dreams. It wasn’t until on a coffee date with his 14 year old daughter, Eden, that he even mentioned it. Eden suggested turning a ride like that into a fundraiser. Suddenly, the thought didn’t seem so far-fetched to John.
That night, as he and his wife, Deana, were falling asleep, he mentioned the idea to gauge her reaction. “That sounds nice honey,” she whispered as she drifted off to sleep. With his mind racing, John stared wide-eyed at the ceiling in disbelief. Was his family really on board with this crazy idea? There was one person left to consider…his youngest daughter, Haven.
Haven was born with a heart defect. At 10 days old, her heart stopped during surgery. It was 59 long minutes before it beat again on its own. Because of the oxygen deprivation, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy affecting the left side of her body and her speech. She began physical and speech therapy at ten months old and has continued that therapy three times a week for her entire life.
When John told Haven about his plan to highlight the therapists and the work they do at Easter Seals, Haven was ecstatic.
Family and friends immediately jumped into action. Deana created a Facebook page and a web site to publish, promote and update the mission and progress of John’s trip. Followers spidered throughout the United States. On the self-funded 7,510 mile ride, John saw hundreds of people that turned out to support him. His motivation became emotional as he rode for a different Easter Seals child each day.
Along his route, he would stop at the homes of special needs children whose parents had reached out to him through social media. He met families at restaurants and summer camps. In Oklahoma, while filling up at a gas station, a woman asked him, “Are you Haven’s dad?” He answered with a surprised, “Yes.” She told him she had been following his progress on Facebook.
John wondered how one guy riding a motorcycle across the country could make an interesting documentary as the film crew followed him, chronicling his grueling and majestic ride. Each morning, before starting that day’s leg of the trip, John made a silent vow: “No turning back.”
He kept his pledge through all of the road blocks, detours and dead ends. “Special needs kids don’t get the chance to detour or re-route. They have to walk the road that is in front of them, so we adopted their challenge and decided not to turn back. When we hit a dead end, we pushed through to honor the kids,” John said.
On the very last mile of his trek, four Kawasaki executives joined him to ride to the ocean. There, the president of Kawasaki presented him with a $10,000 check for Easter Seals. To date, John’s ride has raised over $94,000 for the charity. “Making sure Easter Seals is funded is a passion of ours,” he said.
As John was riding Haven’s Road, his family was driving across the country as well. They stopped at the homes of family and friends along the way. On August 1, the whole family reunited on the Pacific beach. Haven put her arms around John’s neck, smiled and said, “You made me famous!”
The documentary ‘Haven’s Road’ will premiere at the Ron Robison Theater in downtown Little Rock on May 19, 2016. Learn more at:
BRAVE MEANING: noun: brave | 1.a brave person. | 2.to meet or face courageously:to brave misfortunes. | 3.to defy; challenge | 4.ready to face and endure danger or pain
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