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Former WHS coach continues fund raising in memory of late player

  • Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chris Sokoloski/South Strand News Former Waccamaw High School tennis coach James Brown recently completed a bicycle ride from New York City to Surfside Beach to raise money for the Ashley G Foundation.

When tennis coach James Brown rides his bicycle from his home in Hoboken, N.J., to his job in Manhattan, he passes by Presbyterian Hospital, where one of his players died.

Ashley Gaines, who played for Brown at Waccamaw High School, died of Diffuse Large B Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008.

“Being close to Ashley, that was a very special time in all of our lives,” Brown said.

After her death, Gaines’ family started the Ashley G Foundation to raise money for research into the disease, and to help families battling it.

On July 25, Brown hopped on his bicycle in front of the hospital and started an 800-mile journey to Surfside Beach to raise money for the foundation. It’s the third straight year he’s done a fund-raising bike ride.

“For me, that’s what it’s become,” Brown said, “trying to help other people through Ashley.”

In 2012, Brown rode his bicycle from Waco, Texas, to Surfside Beach. Last year he rode from the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach, Calif., to the Atlantic Ocean near his second home along the Grand Strand.

Those rides took him about 4,000 miles and raised more than $40,000.

This year he decided on a shorter ride, but pushed himself to average 100 miles per day.

“The ride was nothing, terrain-wise, to the other two rides,” Brown said. “Nothing comparable at all. Which is good, I needed a change.”

He spent the first part of trip in urban areas, traveling through New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

After some suburbia in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and more city riding in Norfolk, Va., Brown arrived in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

“That was amazing,” Brown said.

He traversed a personal best 116 miles through the Outer Banks in one day.

He started at Nags Head and rode 60 miles to Hattaras, where he hopped on a ferry for the 16-mile trip to Ocracoke Island. He rode 18 miles to end of the island and caught another ferry to Cedar Island. He then rode 36 miles to Beaufort, NC.

“That was a long day,.” Brown said. “I was wore out.”

By the morning of Aug. 1, the finish line at Surfside Beach was within reach.

And then the rain came.

“It might have been the toughest day of all,” Brown said.

It took him an hour to get out of Wilmington, N.C., because U.S. Highway 17 was so busy and it was pouring. It was two hours before the rain finally stopped.

After that it was mostly smooth sailing south on 17 all the way to Surfside Beach, and a welcome home celebration at his house.

During the party, a woman told the story of her daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer at age 6, and now four years later was finally finishing up her treatments. The foundation helped the family financially while the little girl was in the hospital.

“That made it real for everybody,” Brown said. “And for me that’s what makes it special. Because you raise this money and it goes to people that need it.”

Next year Brown is planning a shorter ride and wants to get a group of people to do it with him. He’s thinking of starting about 200 miles from home and riding for three days.

“I’ll try to find a safe route where new riders, that haven’t been riding that long, can do it,” he said.

Brown and his wife and daughter posted pictures and videos on Facebook while preparing for the ride and during the ride. The first video they posted got more than 10,000 views.

“It was so fun,” he said.

Brown’s Facebook page is “The Ashley G Ride 2014.”

For more information on the foundation, or to make a donation, go to www.ashleygfoundation.com.

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