Rae Spooner recalls that two and a half weeks before her husband Ray’s passing, his friends Cliff and Marie Channell asked if it was okay to do a bike race in his honor. Ray’s response? “Yes, I want it long and in the spring.”

Ray Spooner’s story captured the heart of C-U back in 2015 when he set out to ride over 3,000 miles across the U.S. on his bike, after being diagnosed with ALS; an endeavor that eventually raised over $100,000 for MDA-ALS. He'd always enjoyed biking, but it wasn’t until he and his wife Rae moved to London, and Ray decided to experience London above ground, that it became something he loved. Rae explained that most people "go below ground," using the subway to get from home to work. She goes on to tell a story about the first time Ray set out on a long bike ride. He was unprepared, as she expressed multiple times. And though he was met with snow on this unprepared bike ride, “he loved it.” she proclaimed. “He kept going further and further until he got to 100 miles,” Rae said with a smile, explaining that “the solitary activity was good for him." 

Riding 100 miles wasn’t something he did just every so often. Rae explained that here in C-U “he’d have 100 mile routes all around; he’d wake up to see which way the wind was going” to decide which direction to bike. Ray also started doing 24 hour bike rides, and even rode over 200 miles to Michigan to visit his daughter. According to Rae, he did that in one day.

“He won his first bike ride he was in and started cross country bike rides for charity.” Rae explained that “he was a crazy cyclist, he liked to push his body to cycling feats, to see the human body’s limit.” He certainly did this in his last long ride, suffering an injury, but eventually completing the ride a mere month later.

Ride for Ray was established last year to continue to honor his legacy and raise money for ALS research. The 2nd Annual Ride for Ray will happen on June 9th. Riders can choose between 30, 62 and 124 miles, and all of the routes will start at Colbert Park in Savoy. Riders going 62 and 124 miles will be provided with timing chips as they race to Allerton and back. The 30-mile ride will be a more “leisurely ride to Sadorus and back,” Rae explained. She wanted a shorter option for herself to ride. If you want all the perks for registering early, be sure to do so by June 4th and your registration will include a pasta dinner the night before, a Ride for Ray t-shirt, insurance, and for the longer length rides you will be timed. Day-of registration will also be available. Riders should plan on sticking around after the ride for a pizza dinner sponsored by Rae.

Can’t ride 124 or even 30 miles? No worries, there are other ways you can support and donate. Friday, June 8th there is a pasta dinner for the riders, but anyone is welcome to come, just sign up and pay the $10 fee. The dinner is being catered by Piato Café and will be at the Urbana Independent Media Center. Be sure to bring extra cash for the silent auction. They will be auctioning off desserts so tables can bid for which dessert they want.

There is also a Family Fun event the day of the race at about 10:15 a.m. “My big thing wasn’t always to have a crazy ride, but to have it be family friendly- a huge part of Ray’s world was helping women bring babies in to this world,” says Rae. He brought over 2,000 babies into the world while working as a midwife at Carle, which is why it was important to have something for kids to do. The family fun will include a safety course, a short family ride around the lake, and games. At lunch time there will be food trucks to purchase lunch, then you can stick around to cheer on the riders. There will also be a jar for donations during this time, a great opportunity for kids to practice donating.

If you can’t show up, no worries, you can donate to a rider’s fundraising page. Click here to search for a rider, team, or just donate to a Spooner; Ray’s wife and daughter are both riding. I even hear that there may be a friendly competition between the two on who will raise the most money.

As Ray would say, "Peace, Love and Midwives."

To register and for more info go to the Ride for Ray website. To read more about the Spooners and their journey, check out this story in Upworthy featuring photos by Justine Bursoni.

Photos provided by Rae Spooner.