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'Ride With Larry': Cyclist with Parkinson's disease to bike 300 miles across South Dakota

January 25, 2011 | 10:18 am


Avid cyclist Larry Smith was 42 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Now 61, the retired police captain is an inspiring sight around his hometown of Vermillion, S.D., because of his attitude and refusal to just stop living.

Smith, who owns Mister Smith's Bakery and Cafe in Vermillion, has become a familiar sight as he heads to work on his red recumbent bike.

"I know people that got diagnosed with Parkinson's, and they just gave up. Sat in a wheelchair and refused to get up," Smith said. "I'll never give up. Some day this will probably take me, but I'm not going to walk away from life."

He is now taking his message to the street -- about 300 miles of it. In June, Smith is planning to ride from Aberdeen, S.D. to his home in Vermillion, stopping along the way each night to speak with local support groups about the benefits of cycling, staying active and keeping positive with Parkinson's.

The last leg of the five-day ride, from Sioux Falls to Vermillion, will be open to the members of the public who want to ride to the finish line.

"Come on out, folks. Cast aside your wheelchairs and your walkers if you can and join me, join me for the ride, the ride of your life," Smith coaxed. "I understand it will challenge people. ... It will challenge them in ways they can't imagine. But I can guarantee a pretty good time. Fighting for a cure. Which is, after all, what we all want. A cure."

Chronicling the ride will be a team of filmmakers that includes Smith's niece, co-producer Katie Skow-Villareal. Their project, titled "Ride With Larry," is a documentary that aims to puts a human face on the day-to-day fight against Parkinson's.

The film group, however, needs some help getting to the finish line of this last leg of the documentary -- they have until Feb. 1 to raise $50,000 via Kickstarter.com to cover production expenses, and are about $10,000 shy of that target.

"It's really important that we reach this goal," said co-producer/co-director Andrew Rubin. "Because with Kickstarter, if you don’t meet your goal, everything is refunded and we get nothing."

"On a personal note, all of us working on the film have Parkinson's in our immediate family, and we believe that this can be the first film by the Parkinson's community for the Parkinson's community.

"We want to make a difference in the lives of those with Parkinson's, family members and caretakers," said Rubin. "Beyond Parkinson's, anyone facing a life-altering illness can find inspiration in 'Ride With Larry.' "

-- Kelly Burgess

 Video courtesy of Andrew Rubin / Ride with Larry