Blind bicycle enthusiast pedals for homeless during Ride the Rockies

Andre van Hall, left, rides in tandem with Tom Dea during Ride the Rockies. As part of Team Samaritan House, the largest group of riders, they are helping raise funds for Colorado's homeless.

Day after cancer treatment, André van Hall rides in tandem with Team Samaritan House

André van Hall may have lost his eyesight, but the cycling enthusiast didn’t lose his determination to complete Ride the Rockies.

The husband and father is pedaling his way from Alamosa to Salida during the Ride the Rockies bicycle tour from June 10-17. He rides in tandem with fellow Team Samaritan House rider Tom Dea, who encouraged him to pick-up his bike and join the team’s ride for Colorado’s homeless.

“It was the day I was diagnosed,” van Hall said about the damaged nerve that caused his sudden blindness. “I was there crying and feeling so sorry for myself, and the world became darker and darker. But I realized I can look down the path of darkness, literally and figuratively, or I can look on the bright side. Change is not our enemy, but our attitude toward it.”

After his 2011 diagnosis, van Hall saddled his bicycle again and started to complete tours in tandem with other riders.  This year he joined Team Samaritan House, a collaborative partner with Ride the Rockies and The Denver Post Community Foundation, which dedicates its ride to making a difference in the lives of men, women and families facing homelessness.

Andre during Ride the Rockies before becoming blind in 2011.

The team’s goal is to raise more than $150,000 in donations to provide meals and warm beds to residents at Samaritan House shelter and support Catholic Charities of Denver’s shelter program, designed to teach residents life skills and self-reliance. Donations also support Marisol Homes in Denver, The Mission in Fort Collins and Guadalupe Community Center and Shelter in Greeley.

The tour is more meaningful to van Hall knowing that it’s dedicated to raising funds for the homeless—and that the team is praying for him.

“They’re all praying for me, especially after I was diagnosed with cancer,” said van Hall, who is undergoing treatment for melanoma. “It’s unbelievable there are people out there praying and supporting you. It’s amazing how much energy you derive from that.”

The comradery of riding with 42 other bicyclists in Team Samaritan House was also a draw for van Hall, who left his position as CEO and general manager of the Denver Athletic Club to become a motivational speaker. He was an avid cyclist before his diagnosis and speaks about overcoming the challenges of blindness.

“I (realized) that I can feel sorry for myself and angry and frustrated or I can say, ‘You know what? It’s a new chapter, and I have to face it and do things differently,’” van Hall said.

To support van Hall and Team Samaritan House, visit samhousedenver.org/rtr.

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