450 miles, several days, one goal: Hamilton man riding for inspiring fundraising effort

As a young boy, Michael McCracken sat on the living room floor of his parents’ home in Michigan and watched the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon.

The more Lewis, a comedian, actor, singer and filmmaker, asked viewers of the broadcast to donate to the MDA, the more McCracken encouraged his parents to mail in a check. McCracken said he’s not sure his parents ever fulfilled his wishes.

But by asking he felt like he was “doing something.”

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Now the 67-year-old Hamilton resident has turned that childhood innocence into adult initiative.

Last week, McCracken began his 450-mile, round trip bike trek from Hamilton to Adrian, Mich., and back to Butler County as part of another of his MDA fundraisers. He left at 3 a.m. Thursday and hopes to be back home Tuesday morning. McCracken is riding on U.S. 127, and MDA officials have arranged for him to rest at fire stations in Greenville, Celina and Van Wert.

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One family in Celina read about McCracken’s bike marathon, and because they have a child with muscular dystrophy, they have invited him to spend the night.

The goal, he said, is to raise money and awareness and “give my strength so they can have strength.” Team Michael McCracken: A Reason To Ride has raised $295 of its $500 goal, according to his fund raising page.

Deneen Wolber, development coordinator for the MDA of Southern Ohio, said plenty of people have raised funds through bike rides, but none has ridden 450 miles.

“That is insane,” she said of the distance. “This is huge. We are amazed.”

Wolber said McCracken is riding for those who are unable.

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“He’s giving muscles to our families that can’t,” she said.

McCracken owns a 21-speed Jamis bike, and his average cruising speed will be between 12 to 15 mph, he said. He will pull a cargo trailer that holds up to 100 pounds and is covered by a waterproof bag.

To train for the 450-mile ride, his longest, McCracken rides his bike from Hamilton to his work in West Chester, a 10-mile trip. The first year he owned his bike, McCracken said he rode 1,500 miles to and from work.

This isn’t the first time McCracken has raised money for the MDA.

While studying at Adrian College in Michigan, he organized a bike race from his fraternity chapter to the chapter at the University of Toledo. It was a 35-mile race, and the registration fees, about $500, were donated to the MDA.

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He later participated in 100-mile bike-a-thons around Belle Isle, Mich., and Findlay and in cities he was stationed during his 23-year career with the Marine Corps, from which he retired as a major.

Once McCracken arrives in Adrian, he also will attend his 50-year class reunion at Madison High School. While his classmates may drive their fancy automobiles to the reunion, McCracken will pedal his bike. Let’s hope there’s a bike rack outside the venue.

McCracken was asked if anyone who hears of his quest thinks he’s irrational.

“About everybody,” he said with a smile. “I’m supposed to be an old man.”

An old man accomplishing something he couldn’t do as a young boy watching TV.

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