Tour de Har rolling into ninth year


It ends at the finish line, but it starts at the bar.

While the Tour de Har Ride for Pulmonary Fibrosis will take off for a ninth year this summer, the fundraising efforts will get under way this Thursday, March 10, at the Cottage Café near Bethany Beach.

“It’s just always a good time,” said event coordinator Doreen Walls. “Everybody comes out and they’re ready for it. It’s just amazing to me that, nine years later, it’s still the same people coming out and supporting us.”

The Cottage Café will set aside 20 percent of the night’s proceeds for the “dine-and-donate” event, to be donated to the Fund for Pulmonary Fibrosis at Johns Hopkins. Along with the bike-ride event later this year, the fundraising event again honors the memory of the late Harry Walls, who passed away after a battle with the disease in November of 2007.

While the fundraisers always offer a good time, the battle with a disease with no known cause is far from over. And, according to Doreen Walls — and the American Lung Association (ALA), for that matter — it’s more common than one might think.

“It’s a terrible disease to watch progress,” she said. “More people have it than you realize. When you’re in the world of pulmonary fibrosis — when I talk to people about it — almost every single time, somebody says, ‘I know someone’” who is affected.

With an estimated 48,000 new diagnoses every year, and an estimated 40,000 deaths that go along with them, the ALA notes that roughly the same number of people die from PF every year as they do breast cancer. And those rates are continuing to climb each year.

Johns Hopkins and the rest of the medical world are, of course, grateful for the help.

“I get letters from the head of the department and the president of the hospital every year,” Walls said. “And I am always in contact with Harry’s former pulmonologist. They’ve been astounded by the outpouring of help my family got from this community. People I didn’t know just came around to help in whichever way they could.”

Nine years after the first Tour de Har, the community is still stepping up to the challenge. And just as PF advocates are grateful for Walls and events like the Tour de Har, Walls is grateful for the community that has made it all possible.

“In a bad situation, I’ve seen a lot of lovely things come out of it,” she said of the silver lining. “We’ve always had a party, and when Harry died, we turned the bike part of our party into a fundraiser. Some local people sought me out and helped me get it off the ground.

“I was just stunned at the generosity. The Cottage has offered to host this thing every year — they’re always there for us. People just wanted to help. Some of them didn’t know me, didn’t even know Harry, and they just wanted to help. The community is just amazing — they just keep helping, and I’m so appreciative of the support.”

Joining the battle against PF is as easy as buying a beer on Thursday night, but there will be plenty of other chances to help raise funds, with door prizes, 50/50 raffles and “Chinese” auctions.

The festivities are set to start at 5:30 p.m. and scheduled to go on until 8:30, with live music by Rick Arzt of Love Seed Mama Jump.

For more information, or to donate items for raffle, contact Doreen Walls at bogrid@mchsi.com.

“It’s just a real community event,” said Walls. ‘Everybody seems to want to help. It feels like it’s everybody’s event.”