Whitney Sadler has organized Max’s Ride for ALS – a motorcycle ride through Texas Hill Country – for the past 10 years in memory of her friend Max. Read their story of friendship throughout Max’s fight with ALS and how Whitney carries on his legacy.
Max R. Harrison served in the Army and was part of the deployment in Desert Storm. He was an honorable, strong, loyal, blued-eyed guy with an incredible sense of humor. His mission began when he found out that he had ALS at just 32. His goal from the first day of diagnosis was to raise awareness of ALS and funding for research and patient services too.
Everyone seems to remember the day of their diagnosis. Max’s was April 14, 2002. He had made several trips from Springfield, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri to go through the torturous testing that would later reveal an ALS diagnosis. The day he got home with the news of the diagnosis, off Max went to help a friend fix her car. That was the kind of guy he was – if you needed his last dollar, he would hand it over with a smile.
In October 2003, Whitney moved to from Illinois to Texas and continued to help Max as much as she could via phone calls to providers and the ALS Association. Neither Max nor Whitney had any clue how ALS would affect Max’s life. Through each step of his loss of independence, Max confided in Whitney.
“To this day, I feel very blessed that he shared all that was happening with me,” Whitney said.
On November 8, 2006, Max lost his battle with ALS. After feeling lost without her best friend, Whitney wanted to do something to continue his legacy. With the encouragement of some friends, she decided to put two of her passions together, raising awareness and funding for ALS and motorcycles. From there, Max’s Ride for ALS was born. Motorcycles, military support and music – what a great combination.
What began as a small motorcycle ride and BBQ lunch raising $3,000 in 2007 has now grown into a police-escorted ride, a concert and silent auction, which has raised over $141,000 in nine years for the Texas Chapter (2007 to 2015). The event includes opening ceremonies at Cowboy Harley Davidson of Austin with a Salute to the Military as an honor to Max’s service during Desert Storm and to increase awareness of the link between veterans and ALS. At 11 o’clock exactly, the parade of motorcycles is led out by an Austin Police Department escort into the beautiful Texas Hill Country.
As soon as the bikes head out, everyone else heads over to Scholz Garten for the silent auction and Rock the Garten concert. Max’s Ride has been volunteer supported for many years, which cuts down on expenses and allows more dollars to go back to the Texas Chapter. It is truly a grass roots event!
When Max was first diagnosed in 2002, he started the Walk to Defeat ALS in Springfield, Illinois, and he also attended the ALS Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. Max chose to take Whitney with him to D.C.
“It was a trip of a lifetime, and I have wonderful memories from those days. I was on the front lines, advocating for major legislative changes (like no waiting period for long-term disability for people with ALS and an increase in the Department of Defense funding for ALS research),” Whitney said.
Because of that trip, Whitney decided to allow the proceeds from Max’s Ride for ALS to sponsor Texans with ALS attending the conference.
Neither Max, his family, friends nor Whitney had any idea how ALS would impact their lives in the years after losing Max.
“We had a choice to make when we lost our person Max to ALS,” Whitney said. “Would we walk away and try to rebuild a new life or would we continue the fight and legacy of such an incredible man?”
Max’s fight during his four and a half years with ALS taught everyone he came in contact with what true strength and courage is all about. So Whitney and Max’s family and friends chose to fight, and they do that through Max’s Ride.
“I hate to see newly diagnosed members of the ALS community, and I would love to put the ALS Association out of business!” Whitney said. “Until then, we will continue fighting for those who are no longer able.”
Whitney walks to defeat ALS in the fall, and she rides and dances, rain or shine, in the spring.
“I want to give a big thank you to everyone who has been involved throughout the past 10 years,” Whitney said. “Whether it has been an ear to listen, a dollar to donate, or a hug that says so much, together we do make a difference! Thank you!”
If you’re interested in getting involved in Max’s Ride, visit maxals.org.
If you’re interested in ALS Advocacy, visit alstexas.org/advocate.