For many people, summertime is all about spending time with family and friends, getting outside, enjoying nature and living life to the fullest. Few seized that opportunity like Harry Walls, a devoted husband and father of four who lost his battle with pulmonary fibrosis in 2007.
Nevertheless, his legacy and memory live on through his wife, Doreen, who four years ago set up the Tour de Har, a charity bike ride within the community that Harry Walls called home, raising money and awareness to benefit the Fund for Pulmonary Fibrosis at Johns Hopkins.
This weekend, on Saturday, July 30, the Tour de Har will hit the back roads of southeastern Sussex County in a 10.5-mile ride through Bethany Beach, Ocean View and Fenwick Island, open to anyone who would like to participate and give back.
“The event is a real testament to the community,” said Doreen Walls, who has watched the number of participants increase in the Tour de Har’s first three years. “I am so appreciative that the awareness and support is spreading and reaching so many people. From the start, I wanted this to become a community event, and it really has. We see returning bikers each year, and a lot of those who give up their time are sponsors in the event. Many businesses chip in and participate.”
A bike ride with family and friends had become a tradition each summer for the Wallses, bringing everyone together. The Wallses’ children wanted to commemorate their father’s life by continuing the custom that so many looked forward to each summer season.
“Harry always loved taking the ride with all of our family and closest friends,” Doreen Walls recalled. “He’d still enjoy it if he were here with us today.”
More than 5 million people are affected by pulmonary fibrosis worldwide, with more than a half-million cases in the United States. The cause of the disease most commonly stems from cigarette smoking but it can also be attributed to inhaling environmental and occupational pollutants.
As harmful toxins invade the lungs, scarring occurs and the lungs’ air sacs are gradually replaced by fibrotic tissue. The transfer of oxygen into the bloodstream becomes more and more difficult, resulting in shortness of breath; a chronic, dry cough; fatigue and weakness; loss of appetite and rapid weight loss.
Harry Walls’ case was a particularly rare one. As a physical therapist, husband and father of four, Walls kept very active and was always conscious of his health. In early 2001, he was diagnosed with dermatomyositis – a rare autoimmune disease that breaks down the skin and muscle – which made his body susceptible to other complications, including pulmonary fibrosis.
In its inaugural year, the Tour de Har raised $4,000, and since then, the amount raised has topped $10,000. Saturday’s ride, which is not a race, will begin at Lord Baltimore Elementary School, located along Route 26 in Ocean View. On-site registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at Lord Baltimore, with the ride starting promptly at 9:30 a.m. The “tour” will take riders along the area’s back roads, past scenic fields and bay waters, before ending at Harpoon Hannah’s, west of Fenwick Island. Participants are responsible for their return home.
Registration costs $25, and additional donations are being accepted. All contributions are tax-deductible and can be made payable to Tour de Har and sent to Doreen Walls, 32854 East Riga Dr., Ocean View, DE 19970.
Raffle tickets will also be sold for $1 at Harpoon Hannah’s following the ride, and prizes will include weekend getaways, business coupons, gift certificates, sports attire and tickets, and more. For more information, visit www.tourdehar.com or call (302) 537-2961.