Alzheimer's Support Network


Thank You: Jay Schlichter, The Banner, The Naples Daily News, Donna Slattery, and Steve!

An Incredible Journey

by Jay Schlichter


The Unforgettable Ride:  Southwest Florida man takes 5,500 mile bike ride for himself, Alzheimer’s Organization



Ever since Steve Edmonston was in his 20's, he has wanted to take a cross-country journey on his bicycle.


It took him three decades to achieve his dream. But the 51-year-old has succeeded. He is only a few hundred miles away from completing what will be at least a 5,500-mile trek that started in Naples on May 16 and is ending in Jasper, Alberta, in the next few days.


However, Edmonston didn't make the trip just for himself. He is riding in honor of those who can no longer ride or remember. His trip is not only a personal adventure, but a fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Support Network (ASN) in Naples, where Edmonston worked for six years as a community liaison.


Since he left, Edmonston has been writing a daily blog and taken hundreds of pictures that are uploaded to a website so that those Southwest Florida patients suffering from Alzheimer's who he has assisted through the years can experience and enjoy the beautiful sites he is passing through, like national parks and historical towns. That is why he decided to give his journey a name -- "the unforgettable ride."


When Edmonston came up with the idea, the question that he heard the most - especially from his wife, who lives in Maryland - was "why?"


"Some people have called it a midlife crisis," he said. "I like to think of it as a sabbatical."


The timing came about as a result of several things happening in conjunction. Edmonston's wife has been living in Baltimore for the past few years, working as a nanny for their granddaughter. Then, the couple found out that their son was moving back to Baltimore from :Puerto Rico, with a newborn grandchild in tow. Finally, their daughter announced that she was· pregnant with their third grandchild.


All of those things together, in addition to the fact that the Edmonstons have been living a long-distance relationship and paying expensive airline rates to fly back and forth, so that the two were only seeing each other on a monthly basis, at most, led Edmonston to decide that it was time that leave his position at ASN.

That was three years ago. The reason it's taken Edmonston so long to leave and move back to Baltimore is because of his love for his job at the organization and the family that started ASN more than 30 years ago.


"The organization and the people there are amazing," Edmonston said. "They have done a tremendous job. They are completely dedicated to the caregiver."


While there are many groups that cater exclusively to Alzheimer's patients, ASN was started by Chuck and Suky Pollard in Naples three decades ago when the couple noticed that there weren't any organizations that took care of the needs of the caregivers, the people who also suffer through Alzheimer's in that they must be a 24-hour, 7-day support system for their loved one. The couple had moved to Southwest Florida to assist an ailing parent who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. They immediately saw the need for an organization like ASN.


Today, the Pollards still help run the nonprofit group, but now their son, Clarke, is the executive director. He said that Alzheimer's Support Network assists caregivers in many ways, but one is a free eight-week course that shows them what they can expect to see and deal with over the next several years with the disease. "A couple of our special programs are designed to give caregivers a long break," Clarke Pollard said, adding that the organization has a day-care program with a full day of entertainment for Alzheimer's patients that allows the caregivers to have a few hours to themselves.


The Pollards were sad that Edmonston had to leave the organization, but totally understood the reasoning. In fact, Clarke Pollard has been one of his biggest supporters. He helped Edmonston set up the website for the ride and agreed to upload the pictures and blog posts when Edmonston emails them during his long ride.


"He is doing it as a fundraising effort for us. We love it that he is doing it for us," Pollard said, adding that the organization only has one other fundraiser that it holds annually -- the Elephant Fest at the Naples Zoo  -- and that it operates on a "razor thin" budget. "But we've been very lucky and we try not to press the fundraising angle at all, because all of our services are free."


Although Edmonston said his wife has jokingly scolded him that he is having "the vacation of his life," he said this trip has been an adventure that has not been easy at all.


"Somedays you're climbing all day. Your feet hurt, your butt hurts… and then you're sleeping on the ground later that day," he said, mentioning that he has only had a couple of nights where he decided to spend the night in a motel to clean up. Otherwise, he's been camping in parks or even alongside the road pretty much every night. "But the thrill of climbing a beautiful mountain pass's very stimulating and exciting. So it's not been easy physically and it's probably been harder than I thought, but I am having a great time."


In addition, Edmonston said the ride can very easily be associated with what Alzheimer's patients go through, because like them, he has had to focus in on what's happening in the here and now.


"I have to think about, what am I eating today, where am I sleeping today," he said. "It's an experience you can't get in a car. It relates to Alzheimer's because those with the memory· disorder, they too can only live in the moment. The past is very murky and the future is uncertain. For the Alzheimer's patient, they are living in the moment too."


To find out more about Edmonston's ride or to support the Alzheimer's Support Network, log onto There is a "donate" button on his webiste, with the money going directly to the organziation.  Donations can also be sent directly to ASN by calling (239) 262-8388 or going to