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Pushing the Limit – Friends Ride Across America

01.23.2020

As seen in the Winter 2020 edition of The Scroll

Brothers from Florida Alpha go to great lengths to raise money for two worthy causes

By Don Souhrada

Three Florida Alpha brothers joined forces in June to raise money and awareness for muscular dystrophy (MD) and for a mental health facility in Atlanta, Georgia. Together, Team FSHD Skyland Trail raised more than $1.3 million to support the respective causes.

Known as the world’s toughest bicycle race, the Race Across America (RAAM) spans more than 3,000 miles. Brothers George Pollock, Florida ’89, and Powell Brown, Florida ’89, were two members of an eight-person team that completed the race in six days, thirteen hours and eleven minutes. The team was supported by a thirteen-member crew, which included Brother Jim Dvorak, Florida ’90.

Pollock rode to raise funds for the FSHD Society, the world’s largest research-focused patient organization for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). FSHD is one of the most prevalent forms of muscular dystrophy. It is estimated that 40,000 people in the United States have FSHD, for which there is no known cure and no treatment. Pollock was diagnosed with the disease twelve years ago. He serves on the board of the Society, which is the global leader in raising funds to find a cure.

“The best thing I can do to treat this condition is to lead a healthy lifestyle,” Pollock said. Because the disease attacks muscle, Pollock said exercise is key to help stabilize weak muscles.

“I have to move—a lot. Exercise and eating well are important to maintaining strength. Biking is excellent form of exercise because you are balanced on the bike.”

This is Pollock’s second RAAM finish. He first rode in 2017. This year, he was joined by Powell Brown. According to Pollock, “Powell is always intrigued by epic adventures.” Brown joined the team to support Pollock while raising money for another cause—Skyland Trail—a mental health facility in Atlanta that supports people coping with mental illness.

“We are raising awareness, helping to erase the stigma associated with mental illness and raising money for education, research and treatment of these serious disorders which affect so many of our friends, family, and colleagues,” wrote Brown. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24. I’m riding to change that.”

The money raised for Skyland Trail will specifically benefit their new J. Rex Fuqua Campus for adolescents.

“Being able to participate in this race alongside George while raising awareness for causes that are personal to us is a tremendous honor,” Brown wrote. “I appreciate all of the support that our team has received, and I’m proud of the positive impact that these funds will have on education, research, and treatment of these serious diseases and disorders that can affect our friends, family, and colleagues.”

Brother Jim Dvorak agreed to serve on the crew for Team FSHD Skyland Trail. Dvorak and other members of the crew, which included George’s wife Jane and their son Jacob, provided support on the road. The crew made sure the riders had water and nutrition, and for much of the ride, followed the riders in a support vehicle to provide protection.

Dvorak and Pollock were roommates in the chapter. They rode bikes together as undergraduates and now share another connection—Dvorak’s wife and daughter also live with a form of adult-onset muscular dystrophy. Dvorak hopes the funds raised to support FSHD research will discover a breakthrough, which could advance research on all forms of MD.

“When George came to me to this year to ask if I could shoot the ride, I was on board from the start, both because of the situation I now find my family in with regards to muscular dystrophy and the desire to document what George, Powell, and the rest of the team are doing to raise money and awareness for important causes,” Dvorak said.

Pollock was overwhelmed by the support the team members received before, during, and after their adventure.

“The connection of family and friends who joined us on the race or who followed our journey online was humbling. I can never repay what everyone has done,” Pollock said. “And to have two of my best friends and fraternity brothers be a part of this was an experience of a lifetime. Their gift is what fraternity is all about.”

This article was reprinted in an edited form with permission. Don is the president of Greek Giving.

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