Special to the Union
McKinleyville – Dietrich Zacher began his 932-mile bicycle ride heading north from San Diego on Monday, Aug. 10. He rolled into Eureka on Wednesday, Aug. 19 to an enthusiastic greeting from friends and family. Among the crowd gathered to cheer him were his wife, Tamara, along with their two boys, Egan and Cainnan, and his father, Richard Zacher. Mother Sharron Zacher got a personal visit from her cycling son at her workplace. Sharron and Richard Zacher are longtime residents of McKinleyville.
Zacher, a 12-year active duty U.S. Navy serviceman, took on the long-distance challenge to raise awareness for autism research and to help fund treatment. He posted news of his adventure during the journey, updating his followers on Facebook as he pedaled through 108 degree heat and climbed 2,000-foot-high Ridgewood Pass, steadily heading north and averaging 90 miles a day. All monies contributed on his fundraising page will be donated to Autism Speaks.
“I saw this as a kind of sufferance because what a lot of kids go through, they have to go through for life. This was just 10 days out of mine, and as far as I’m concerned, I had the easier time of it. If I can do something as off the wall and crazy as this to get attention and to spread awareness, then I would do it again. In fact, I plan to,” said Zacher.
Zacher and his wife have a personal reason to raise awareness and funds for autism research: their two sons. Egan, 11, was diagnosed with Asperger’s and Cainnan, 8, has autism spectrum disorder.
“Since the diagnoses,” said Zacher, “we have had them in early intervention and therapy, sometimes five days a week. To say it’s been hard would be putting it mildly, and anyone who has kiddos on the spectrum can fully attest to that. But even with all the research being done, we still do not know enough about what causes it and why more and more children are being born with it every year.”
Zacher said he worked to raise funds for Autism Speaks because, “When someone donates to Autism Speaks, the money could be to fund research, treatment, help families and give grants for treatment intervention. Plus they help offset the cost for treatment for families who truly need it. They have a help line for parents and guardians as well.”
“Early diagnosis with intervention can increase success of treatment and reduce costs incurred over a lifetime of services, especially for adults who were unable to access treatment services at a young age.”
One of Zacher’s most enthusiastic supporters is Egan, who said, “I think he was crazy, but he rode a thousand miles on a bike — which is really good. To me it’s even better that he is trying to help people with disabilities and children who have a hard time speaking or a harder time doing things with other children.”