Clay Sneed is a 22-year-old jack of all trades. A former rafting instructor at Hiwassee Ocoee State Park, funeral home director, embalmer and now firefighter, Sneed is taking a two-week vacation from …
Clay Sneed is a 22-year-old jack of all trades. A former rafting instructor at Hiwassee Ocoee State Park, funeral home director, embalmer and now firefighter, Sneed is taking a two-week vacation from all of it to pedal nearly 1,100 miles for Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, Sneed said.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting more than 5.8 million people and growing and hundreds of thousands in Tennessee alone.
While there is no known cure, Pedal for Alzheimer’s is working to raise awareness and money for research as well as organizations dedicated to helping those affected by the disease.
Sneed and five others will ride from Knoxville to Daytona, Fla., a 12-day ride totaling in 1,098 miles. Each mile represents a win for Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and died in 2016 at the age of 64.
Sneed is riding to remember his grandmother, who passed away last year after a 12-year battle with Alzheimer’s. He said he will be thinking of her and others each mile of the journey.
“Everyone knows someone or is someone affected by Alzheimer’s,” he said. “Along the way, I’ll be dedicating portions of my ride to those people who are affected one way or another.”
It was hard watching his family battle alongside his grandmother over a decade of the disease. He said the 24/7 care of an Alzheimer’s patients need can be stressful and exhausting, and as scary as living with the disease itself.
Sneed said Alzheimer’s “changes people.”
“They might still be the person that you love, but they are totally different. They have different likes, different tastes and they usually don’t know who you are,” he said.
For Sneed, the ride is a daunting but welcome challenge. A participant in marathons and IronMan triathlons, the farthest he’s ridden in a single day is the average daily distance for the 12-day ride. Riding between 80 and 100 miles each day, Sneed and five others making the full trek will stop every 25 to 30 miles for food and rest while traveling with a Pedal for Alzheimer’s caravan that’s ready to spread awareness all the way to Daytona.
“It’ll be really great to meet people along the way who see the decals on everything and ask what we’re doing,” he said. “The disease is so isolating. Really, I just want people to know they’re not alone.”
If 1,098 miles seems too daunting, Sneed said there are smaller rides as little as 10 miles in Knoxville on the kickoff day, Sunday, Sept. 29. He rode with the team in Knoxville in the Pedal for Alzheimer's kickoff year in 2017. Updates on the ride and Sneed’s journey will be posted to Facebook and Instagram. The team plans to end their ride in Daytona on Thursday, Oct. 10 and fly home.
Sneed has raised around $6,000 of his $10,000 goal, as of Thursday. To sponsor Sneed and other riders, or to learn more about Pedal for Alzheimer’s, visit PedalForAlzheimers.org.
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