Team Alpha to Trek Across Cape Cod with American Lung Association

Event’s largest team boasts 60 members in 2013

(September 13, 2013)

The American Lung Association of the Northeast’s annual Autumn Escape Bike Trek presented by Sunovion, will be held on Cape Cod Friday, September 27 to Sunday, September 29. Team Alpha-1 will embark on the 160-mile journey from Plymouth to Provincetown for the 17th consecutive year. The Autumn Escape Bike Trek (AEBT) raises money to support the Lung Association’s mission to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease.

Team Alpha-1 is named for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, commonly referred to as Alpha-1, a genetic condition that may result in serious lung disease in adults and liver disease at any age. Alpha-1 has been identified in nearly all populations and ethnic groups and it is estimated that 1 in every 2,500 Americans has the condition. This year also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the discovery of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency by two Swedish researchers in 1963.

“The Alpha-1 team has long been one of the strongest supporters of the Autumn Escape Bike Trek,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Their team of dedicated cyclists and volunteers continues to grow year after year and their enthusiasm and excitement is surely contagious. The Alpha-1 team and the Alpha-1 Foundation continue to be great partners in the Fight for Air.”

Fred Walsh, 64, of Duxbury, will join Team Alpha-1 on the Cape for the 17th consecutive year. He is an Alpha - a common name given to those who suffer from Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, the number one risk factor for getting COPD.  Fred remembers the first year Team Alpha-1 took part in AEBT in 1996 with just seven cyclists. The team has since expanded to 60 riders and a cadre of volunteers in 2013. In fact, the Alpha-1 team consistently takes home the AEBT Silver Spoke award for providing the largest cycling team.

The Walshes
Fred Walsh (R) in 2009 with twin brother John (L) and father Jack (center)

Fred, diagnosed with Alpha-1 in 1989 at the age of 40, rode in the Trek up until five years ago when it became too difficult.  He is presently listed for a lung transplant in Boston but continues to volunteer each fall as a SAG vehicle driver, helping any cyclists along the route.  Alphas, some riding with oxygen, join family members and friends to ride each year.  “This year we are joined by riders from the three pharmaceutical companies that provide the IV augmentation therapy that protects our lungs,” said Walsh. “The Massachusetts Alpha-1 Support Group helps organize the team under the leadership of Sheila Favazza and Sue Binnall with invaluable guidance and support from Angela McBride, who runs the Foundation’s Outreach Program, “Building Friends for a Cure.”

Team members wear “Alpha Angel Patches” that commemorate dear friends and loved ones whom they have lost to the disease.  “AEBT has become a trifecta for the Alphas: a memorial ride to honor those we have lost, an awareness and empowering tool and a great fundraiser,” he said.

The Walsh family is all too familiar with the disease that has affected so many in their family tree.  Fred’s mother passed away at just 47 to Alpha-1.  Three of the four Walsh siblings – Fred, his twin brother John and older sister Susan – are affected by Alpha-1.  His youngest sister is a carrier as was his father, Jack, a former teacher, counselor, coach and avid supporter of Team Alpha. John and Fred return to the AEBT again this year as the “Coach Potatoes” team in their father’s memory. John is a co-founder and President of both the Alpha-1 Foundation and the COPD Foundation, and serves on the COPD Foundation’s Board of Directors. He speaks all over the world raising awareness of the condition that affects so many.

Bob Campbell, Director of Communications for the Alpha-1 Foundation, is also an Alpha. He calls the Autumn Escape Bike Trek “an exciting centerpiece of our awareness raising effort.” When asked why the team of Alphas continues to support AEBT year after year, he explained that “some enthusiastic and energetic people have built it into a real marvel of awareness for us.”

Team Alpha is grateful for the wonderful relationship with the American Lung Association of the Northeast, a partnership that has raised funds for the Alpha-1 Foundation’s research programs as well as for the Lung Association. Team Alpha also credits generous sponsors of Team Alpha-1. This year, Grifols, CSL Behring, AlphaNet, Centric Health Resources and Baxter Healthcare have all provided monetary support for the team.
 
AEBT attracts expert and novice cyclists alike and combines competition and leisure in a weekend filled with beautiful scenery, entertainment and support along the way. The event is held rain or shine. The American Lung Association provides cyclists with overnight accommodations, medical and technical support, food and beverages. To learn more about AEBT, or to support the event by making a donation that can save lives, visit the event website at Biketreknewengland.org.

More information on the Alpha-1 Foundation can be found at www.alpha-1foundation.org.