When twin boys, Nate and Max, were born nine weeks early, Nate weighed four pounds and Max tipped the scales at just two pounds. The preemies spent 40 days in a neonatal intensive care unit before they could return to their Evergreen home.
But you wouldn’t know that today looking at the healthy and happy 12-year-olds, who are going into sixth grade at Evergreen Country Day School. This year, they will be riding in the Courage Classic with their 13-year-old brother, Zach, and their parents, Cheryl and Mark Footer.
Cheryl, the boys’ mother, says their success in beating the odds is thanks to many health professionals across Denver, including numerous caregivers at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Because Max was so small when he was born, he needed a variety of health services and was hospitalized several times before he was 5 years old. He received care at Children’s Colorado for surgical services, vision and hearing challenges and learning disabilities, while his brother Nate needed the hospital’s expertise for collapsed lungs and multiple cases of pneumonia, along with a broken arm.
This is a big reason why the Footer family rides in Courage Classic every year: to give back to the hospital that has helped their sons come so far.
Cheryl says her boys have also grown to appreciate the power of fundraising and philanthropy as a result of their participation in Courage Classic.
“They started to see what can happen when a bunch of people get together for a cause,” Cheryl said. “It’s usually hard to get kids excited about raising funds, but this is something they can easily get behind. That’s the wonderful thing about Courage Classic: kids are helping other kids like them.”
The Footer family started riding in the Courage Classic in 2008 after the death of their close family friend, a founder of the tour, as a way to show their support for his wife and family. The Footers said that they had no idea of how the ride would change their lives as they pedaled alongside their friends for the more than 150-mile journey.
“We were inspired by all the sights, sounds and courage that lifted us up the mountain passes and drove us swiftly through the canyons,” said Cheryl. “The Courage Classic is truly an amazing experience that we have continued as a family tradition every year since we first rode eight years ago. We ride with our hearts and minds on the friend that we lost and the children that fight to survive.”
In 2008, the Footer twins were only 4 years old, but they rode the final 100 meters of the tour to cross the finish line each day. As people cheered for them, Cheryl said she knew the crowd had no idea just how special these moments were for their family.
“For them to be able to ride 100 meters each day to finish the ride with us was truly remarkable,” she said.
Although the twins still have their individual unique needs related to being born so early, they are thriving today. They have progressed from their 100-meter finish line rides to pedaling 40 to 70 miles during each of the last three tours. This year they hope to conquer 40 miles on the first day alone.