Ordinary athlete takes on extraordinary challenge for diabetes

July 6, 2010

By Kirsten Johnson

Ernie Bakker

“I am just an ordinary athlete doing an extraordinary event,” Ernie Bakker said.

On July 11, the 63-year-old Issaquah resident will begin a 3,484-mile bike ride, sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The 29-day trip will take him across the United States, from Washington to Virginia.

“Some people would say I am crazy,” he said. “But I can live with that.”

Bakker is motivated by a very personal cause. His 12-year-old granddaughter, Casey Jacobsen, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 4.

The disease affects every aspect of her life. On a daily basis, she must strictly track her carbohydrates and calorie intake, monitor her blood pressure and pump her body with insulin.

“It’s a different life for a kid,” he said. “It is an expensive disease that doesn’t go away.”

Despite her diabetes, Casey remains busy and active. She loves to play guitar, swim and play soccer.

“She does things that any ordinary 12-year-old does,” Bakker said. “She’s just a good kid.”

Bakker’s goal is to raise $20,000 in donations for the foundation.

“This ride is really not about me,” he said. “It’s about getting the word out about juvenile diabetes. It happens to kids like Casey who are healthy. For no reason, it just hits them. We want to find a cure.”

His long journey will start in Everett. Each day, he will average 115 miles and a 4,050-foot climb until Aug. 9, when he reaches Williamsburg, Va. His trek will take him through the scenic country roads of 11 states, including Montana, South Dakota, Illinois and West Virginia.Bakker is no stranger to extreme sports. Over the course of his life, he has ran more than 30 marathons, completed the Iron Man five different times, climbed Mount Rainier on four occasions and swam eight miles across the length of Lake Sammamish.

In the past year alone, Bakker has put more than 15,000 miles on his bike training for his big ride. To stay motivated during the long, grueling hours of training, he relies on music.

“My iPod is my best friend,” he said. “I have 3,767 songs on it and I’ve heard all of them.”

But the greatest motivation for his ride comes from his granddaughter.

“There are obviously days I’d rather be doing something else,” he said. “But I just have to focus on the task at hand. Just the motivation of Casey on my bad days will hopefully keep me going. This ride will only last me 30 days, but for her, it’s a lifetime.”

Bakker is donating 100 percent of the donations he receives to JDRF research.

How to help

Donate to the effort here. Checks can also be made out to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and sent to Nichole Jacobsen, 900 91st Lane N.E., Bellevue, WA 98004.

Kirsten Johnson: 392-6434 or isspress@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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