Like any other 22-year-old, Lauren Byrne goes to college, plays sports and loves to spend time with her friends and family.
But she’s no ordinary woman. By all means, the olive green-eyed woman is extraordinary. The college student works as a recreation leader for and plays competitive rugby — all from a wheelchair.
Byrne didn’t always live life in a wheelchair. She became quadriplegic at the age of 15 after she fell 4 feet from the deck of her Newark home and into her pool. And while it may have been the most difficult time of her life, Byrne remembers her friends and family who supported her the entire time.
And among those who supported her was her older brother, John Byrne, who would visit every weekend to stay by her side and even sing to her.
And the 26-year-old firefighting engineer wants to do even more to support his sister. His goal: To raise $50,000 to purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. The fundraiser has been named Lauren’s Ride.
To raise money, John Byrne is riding from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. He leaves Sept. 9.
The cross-country bicycle trip is an idea that came from John Byrne himself. He plans to stay primarily at fire stations throughout the nation to cut costs for the trip.
Lauren Byrne said she was overwhelmed by her brother’s plan.
“He told me he wants me to focus on bigger things in life,” Lauren Byrne said. “It meant so much to me.”
And her primary focus is to become a teacher in the future. She said she never wanted to let her incident take her desire to be active away.
Rugby has also helped her learn about her true abilities despite her inability to walk.
“I didn’t know I could do all I could do now. It really opened my eyes that I could do anything,” Lauren Byrne said.
And with a car, Lauren Byrne said her opportunities will broaden.
As of Aug. 21, Lauren’s Ride has raised more than $16,000, and that figure has already impressed Lauren Byrne.
“I’m just super grateful; that’s saved me years of saving,” Lauren Byrne said.
Anyone can donate and donations can be made online by visiting laurensride.org. There are other ways you can help to. Click here if you’re willing to be a contact in case of an emergency or would like to offer housing support for John Byrne in the month of September.
A dinner will be held at the Niles Veteran Hall in Fremont the night before John Byrne takes off. Proceeds will help fund the ride itself.
Tickets are $20 for general admission. Children under the age of 10 are free. A silent auction will also be held at the dinner. The Niles Veteran Hall is located at 37154 Second Street in Fremont.
Find more information about Lauren's Ride and learn more about John Byrne in Newark Patch blogger Cheyenne Protz's blogs by .