Amputees Across America 2003

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By Meredy Fullen, Bios by Joseph Sapere

A group of guys who called themselves the "Three J's" approached Ohio Willow Wood in late 2001 for sponsorship. They had an ambitious mission in mind: riding bicycles across the United States from Newport Beach, California, to Jamestown, Virginia. When we read the sponsorship request and trip proposal, we did not realize that all three of the riders were wearing OWW's Pathfinder" foot. Only after speaking to the trip organizer did we make the connection.

Many of you followed the ride by Internet last year, and people turned out by the tens and sometimes hundreds to greet the Three J's along the way. Through the generosity of HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospitals, AAA hosted formal visitations with amputees and families.

Because of the success of last year's trip, Ret. Col. Joe Sapere has planned for the mission to continue. He proposed a plan for the 2003 ride to Ohio Willow Wood--now a Gold Level Sponsor.

Although Joe will be the AAA 03 official organizer, webmaster, support vehicle driver, and navigator, he will not be an official "rider" this year. In order to share the experience and establish a network of amputees who can serve as ATTITUDE Ambassadors, Joe and the other 2002 riders, Jerry Suggs and John Keating, passed the baton to three new riders: Jim DeLong, Mark Farrell, and Bruce Hibbett.

(From left), Joe Sapere, trip organizer; Mark Farrell; Bruce Hibbett; Jim DeLong.
(From left), Joe Sapere, trip organizer; Mark Farrell; Bruce Hibbett; Jim DeLong.

Jim DeLong, 52, a left below-knee amputee, lost his leg in a landmine explosion in Vietnam in 1971. Jim later attended business school and, after working for the state of Ohio, went into the building contracting business. Now retired, Jim and his wife Trisha, who will join AAA '03 as a support driver, travel extensively in their motor home. Jim is a passionate Harley Davidson rider and enjoys horseback riding, hunting, and backpacking. The father of three boys and granddad of six girls, two boys, and one more on the way, Jim has not let his amputation stop him from living life to its fullest. He recently underwent an Ertl revision and was fitted with Alpha® Liners and the Pathfinder.

Mark Farrell, a director in National Decision Systems, a consulting company, has been a below-knee amputee since April 2001. His right leg was crushed in an oilrig accident in 1976 during a summer job while attending the University of New Mexico. Mark graduated from Texas Tech University in 1984. He married, had two children, and--determined not to consider himself disabled--began bicycling and studying aikido. 

In spite of 20 surgeries, increasing pain and functional limitations caused him to choose amputation 25 years after the accident. After his amputation, Mark took skiing and snowboarding lessons and has been ice-skating and rollerblading. A user of Alpha Liners and the Pathfinder foot since May 2002, he has recently begun experimenting with running and plans to try skydiving and paragliding.

A climbing accident in the Wyoming Grand Teton mountains in 2001 left Bruce Hibbett, 51, a left below-knee amputee. Bruce received a masters degree in social work from the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 1985 and works for the Missouri Division of Family Services. He plans to obtain a physical therapist assistant (PTA) degree and, by using this knowledge combined with his own experiences, to help other amputees through rehabilitation. He lives in Jefferson City with his wife Cheryl and daughter Elizabeth. Bruce was fitted with a Pathfinder foot in June 2001 and has used it while hiking, climbing, and canoeing.

The team kicked off their ride on May 31, 2003, in Seattle, Washington, and plan to arrive in Jacksonville, Florida, July 25. Judging by their personalities and having already witnessed several of their shenanigans, this trip is likely to be lively. Check their travel dates and route of over 4,400 miles on If you are interested in being a host facility for a visitation of AAA '03 for your patients, please call Meredy Fullen at 800.553.3445, ext. 106.