Nearly two decades ago, Harry Walls organized a bike ride for friends and families, in an effort to encapsulate summertime at the beach and promote a healthy, active lifestyle. The ride quickly gained popularity, but Walls’ health was rapidly deteriorating from an unexpected diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis. Walls lost his battle with the disease in 2007, but thanks to the dedication of a community, his legacy lives on.
On Saturday, July 28, the “Tour de Har” — the bike ride that Walls first started — continues, in its fifth year as a fundraiser, raising money and awareness for Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in an effort to combat pulmonary fibrosis.
“It’s really incredible,” said Walls’ widow, Doreen, “to see this event grow and see everyone’s support, year after year. People are constantly coming out for the ride, and some people plan their entire trip to the beach around this weekend.” Walls, who was only 40 when he passed, was survived by his wife and four young children.
As a physical therapist’s assistant at Beebe Medical Center and an active athlete, Walls was very in-tune with his health. But he was diagnosed in March 2007 with dermatomyositis, a very rare autoimmune disease that breaks down the skin and muscle. He grew weaker and became susceptible to other health complications, including pulmonary fibrosis — a disease that scars the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath, a dry cough, discomfort in the chest, a loss of appetite and rapid weight loss.
The Tour de Har, a commemorative 10.5-mile bike ride will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Lord Baltimore Elementary School next Saturday, July 28, before ending at Harpoon Hanna’s in Fenwick Island.
“When the Tour de Har first began,” noted Marsha White — a family friend of the Wallses who has been helping assemble the ride for the past four years — “it was just a group of family members and friends. Since Harry passed, though, it has continued to grow into a huge event. Everyone chips in from all over the community. Individuals and businesses chip in and help make it work.”
In addition to the ride, which is not a race, a “Chinese” auction will once again be held at Harpoon Hanna’s and will include weekend getaways, sports memorabilia, local art and goods and more. A SAG wagon — a support motor vehicle to aid fatigued riders — will be available for those who wish to cycle just one way.
“It’s great to see all the contribution that people have put into this event,” White added. “Harry would be so proud of the commitment from everyone — not only for the funds raised — but for the activity itself. People help it grow and continue coming back with a passion. The enjoyment they get from the ride is something I hear remarked quite often.”
“It has really become a big event for entire families,” Doreen Walls added. “Parents bring their kids, and they keep coming back for it.”
Last year, the ride raised nearly $5,000, a goal that Doreen Walls hopes to match again this year.
Registration for the Tour de Har will begin at 9 a.m. at Lord Baltimore Elementary School on the morning of the ride. The registration fee is $25 and will contribute to efforts to help those struggling with pulmonary fibrosis.
For those who want to contribute but cannot ride, donations are also accepted. Checks can be made out to Tour de Har and can be mailed to Doreen E. Walls, 32854 East Riga Drive, Ocean View, DE 19970. For more information about the event, call (302) 537-2961.