2,624 miles for Ashley

  • Friday, June 1, 2012

By Chris Sokoloski


James and Sonja Brown left June 1 for a cross-country car trip to California.

On the way they plan to stop at the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert, Ariz.

After they reach Huntington Beach, Calif., on June 5, James, 52, will hop on his bicycle on June 6 and ride the 2,624 miles back to their home in Surfside Beach.

The Browns are raising money for the Ashley G Foundation, which is named for Ashley Gaines, a Waccamaw High graduate who died of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2008.

Ashley won three state championships with James Brown and the Waccamaw tennis team.

After her death her parents, David and Melanie, started the foundation to fund research into the disease, provide financial assistance for the families of children fighting the disease, and award scholarships to Waccamaw High students.

Last year Brown rode 1,245 miles from Waco, Texas, to Surfside Beach and raised nearly $17,000.

"Last year we were really lucky the weather was fine," Brown said. "I didn't expect the South to be so hilly, but everything else was so positive."

This year he doesn't have a specific dollar amount he's hoping for.

"Whatever we raise will be more than we started out with," Brown said. "I want it to be positive because I know that's what Ashley would want."

David Gaines said Brown's ride brings awareness of the foundation throughout the country.

"It's hard to put into words," Gaines said. "He's been a great friend. It means a lot to us."

Brown's trip will last 42 days. He will ride 70 miles a day for 37 days, stopping to rest for one day each week like he did last year.

Brown's route will take him through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

He's scheduled to arrive home on July 17.

"I can't wait to see what happens," Brown said. "Everyday I wake up and I can't wait to ride and see different parts of the country."

Sonja drives the route with James, getting the word out about his progress to locals as they're passing through, and his supporters back home, and taking care of the details, like hotel rooms.

James has wanted to cycle across the country for years.

"I've had this planned out for several years," his said. "The route's changed but it's been in the works for awhile."

He wanted to do the cross-country trip last year but Sonja couldn't get enough time off from work. This year she has a new job with more flexibility.

While he's riding he said he thinks a lot about his family, and Ashley, and does a lot of planning for the tennis season. That must have worked during last year's ride because the Warriors won the state title last month. It was Brown's ninth title with the boys and girls teams.


James Brown's ride is one of several events the Ashley G Foundation holds, including a running race and a jewelry show, that raise a combined $80,000 a year.

The Foundation's annual concert will be June 9 at Nosh in the Hammock Shops in Pawleys Island. The free event begins at 2 p.m. with a performance by Zade Gundling, followed by Bll Krauss, the Hooligans, Skitch, the Fourclosures, and the Mullets.

Donations will be accepted all day and T-shirts will be available for purchase.

This year's golf tournament will be Oct. 8 at the Reserve.

This year's Ashley G scholarship winners were Sara Roman, Dale Marsh and Maggie Mayeaux.

"Our goal is to help families through grants that need financial help and fund research," Gaines said. "We appreciate everybody's support."


To follow Brown's progress or make a donation, go to theashleygride.com.

For more information on the foundation go to ashleygfoundation.com.

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