Pastor bikes across U.S. to rally diaper donations
RADFORD — As Richland, Wash., resident Eric Shadle travels across the United States, he’s noticed something most wouldn’t — the specifics of road kill.
The type of road kill varies by state, he said, and the smell is “just awful.”
Washington has snakes, Kansas has armadillos, and Kentucky has opossums, he added.
Formerly a physician, Shadle said he’s done a lot of “belly surgery,” but he wasn’t interested in seeing it on the road. Eight years ago, Shadle was a private-practice OB/GYN but retired from medicine after a desire to go into ministry.
Shadle, now a pastor at Richland Adventist Church, is riding his bike across the country to raise awareness for the need of diapers. Since his journey began July 8, Shadle has been riding anywhere from 60 to 80 miles a day, sometimes more, from Richland to Silver Spring, Md.
It all began last year when it was time for Shadle’s sabbatical. Shadle said he is able to take a three-month-long sabbatical every seven years, but last year he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do with it.
He contemplated writing a book but didn’t know exactly what he wanted to write about. He had other ideas, but decided the timing wasn’t right, and he postponed his sabbatical for the year.
Last September, Shadle hurt his knee and had meniscus problems. An avid runner, he decided that he should purchase a bike to keep exercising. It was on a long bike ride last year that he thought he might like to ride across the country for his sabbatical.
A few months before Shadle purchased the bike, some church members approached him with the desire to start a “diaper bank” for the local community. The church had done a “needs assessment” within the local community and discovered that diapers were a priority for many local agencies.
“When they first said diapers, I thought, ‘I’ve never heard of that,’ but they convinced me by the statistics and the need,” Shadle said. “I really believe the church should be a leader and help organize the community to help solve some of the problems it has, and this is one of those problems.”
After the bike purchase, Shadle came up with the idea to ride more than 3,700 miles across the country to bring awareness to the need for diapers.
“I’m doing this ride to raise awareness because if I didn’t know about it, I bet there are all kinds of people out there who don’t know about it,” Shadle said.
His goal is to raise $250,000 to purchase 1 million diapers to distribute across the country and at his local diaper bank, Tri-Cities Diaper Bank.
The National Diaper Bank Network is helping with the distribution.
Why diapers? Why not food, or clothing?
“This is clothing for kids at diaper age, and without it, there’s an increased risk of infection, abuse, and parents don’t feel like they’re providing for their kid like they want to,” Shadle said.
He rode into Radford on Thursday afternoon after leaving Konnarock, Va., earlier that morning. After the 89-mile ride, Shadle was slated to speak at the New River Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in Radford.
There, Shadle told the group that 1-in-3 families struggles to afford diapers, 34 percent of families cut back on basic needs, and diapers are not considered a “basic human need” by the government.
Additionally, Shadle said day cares usually require paper diapers and laundromats don’t allow cloth diapers to be washed, creating a difficult situation for parents unable to afford paper diapers.
So, Shadle set out in July and has connected with numerous people along the way. He scheduled speaking engagements at local churches and helped establish a diaper bank or two along the way.
By the time he reached Radford, Shadle had already traveled more than 3,100 miles.
Although he’s been successful, his journey hasn’t been an easy one.
Even before his bike trip began, there have been many trials for the pastor. It’s hard to believe, but Shadle had open heart surgery in February.
He was nervous he wouldn’t be able to do the ride, but it was his determination that kept him going.
Pam Shadle, Eric’s wife, who is riding in the support vehicle, said her husband is driven and that it was evident as he recovered from his surgery.
“If he says he’s going to do something, he’s going to go out there and do it,” Pam Shadle said.
Shadle has been able to monitor his heart rate, along with his daily ride statistics, with the help of a coach and a Garmin device mounted to a Specialized-brand bike.
There have been more challenges along the way for Shadle. In the early part of the trip, he rode through a head cold in what he called “horizontal” rain. He has also dealt with something most cyclists face eventually — saddle sores.
But that hasn’t slowed him down.
He’s still on pace to finish in Silver Spring, home to the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, on Wednesday.
There, he’ll meet a representative from the National Diaper Bank Network and have five appointments on Capitol Hill the following day to discuss his journey and his mission.
When the journey is complete, Shadle hopes he can look back and see the impact something as simple as riding his bike has made. So far, he has been a part of a diaper bank opening in Springfield, Mo., and a diaper drive in Louisville, Ky., and he inspired a high school student to start a diaper bank at her school in Kentucky.
He made another impact Thursday night in the New River Valley. Several diaper packages were donated to the Pregnancy Resource Center of the New River Valley and accepted by CEO Debbie Christian.
Christian told the group in attendance that diapers are one of their most requested items.
“All of our diapers and all the supplies that come to us are all from donations, and we’re privately funded,” Christian said. “Everything we provide for our clients is free.”
Shadle told the Radford crowd he had raised enough money to purchase more than 400,000 diapers and he was excited to see what would come over the next few days.
For more information about Shadle’s Ride 4 Diapers, visit www.ride4diapers.org.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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