Following the trail of life

Life is a bike trail. You keep peddling until your "trail" ends.

On Wednesday night, Jan Thomas and her sons received the ESPY’s Arthur Ashe Courage award on behalf of the late Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas.  I saw the acceptance speech and I wasn’t worried at all.  I knew Aaron would knock it out of the park.  On a side note, the Becker family also deserve a standing ovation for being in attendance at the show.  They been through hell alongside the Thomas family.

I read with interest on how many people were “misty-eyed” watching the video tribute to Coach and the presentation of the Ashe Award.  I wasn’t “misty-eyed” or emotional at all.  I have seen, read, and listen to the AP story in the past.  Secondly, I had to use the “misty-eyes” and emotional components Wednesday afternoon for someone you don’t know.

Let me tell you about Kim Clayton.

He worked as an executive for American Administrators in West Des Moines.  He and his wife, Debbie, have two children.  Kim had a lot of hobbies and he was an avid Hawkeye fan.  Volunteerism was something he loved to do.  He served on numerous boards and volunteered his time and efforts.

On Friday, July 9th, he collided into the side of a SUV on his bike on a trail in Dallas County.  He was killed instantly. Wednesday afternoon was his funeral.

I’m not writing this to sway you from the attention Coach Thomas deserves to receive, but to tell you that Kim was an everyday hero like Coach Thomas.  He was no Coach Thomas or Mother Theresa when it comes to name recognition.  He didn’t rally a community to rebuild after a tornado or collected food to send to an earthquake-ravaged Haiti.  He volunteered to make his community a better place, in small ways.

Kim served on the American Diabetes Association board with me.  In 2009, we had a down year financially and facing a lack of local public interest in the the cause to find a cure for diabetes.  This year, we made a commitment, as a board, to find new ways to drum up interest for our annual walk & bike ride in September.

Kim was diligent and eager to volunteer in any way.  Sometimes, it was difficult for him when we hit a roadblock.  His facial expression was all I needed to see:  confused, puzzled, looking for a solution.  This spring, Kim found his “voice”, in contacting local companies that we never reached out to in the past.  He became comfortable in calling and asking if he could come out and give his pitch on why they should sponsor or help create and support teams to do our walk.

It was the same “voice” he had at his church, Lutheran Church of Hope, as an usher.  It was the same “voice” that was heard on the WestParks Foundation board as he worked with others to make the parks and the bike trails better and accessible to everyone.

It was that voice that was suddenly silenced on Friday.

As Ed Thomas said, we have to pick ourselves up and move forward.  It’s not that we have to.  We need to.  Life has no stopwatch and there is no button to play back what has taken place.

Life is like a bike trail.  Smooth and simple, bumpy and hilly.  We don’t know where our “individual” trail will end.  We keep riding it until we get there.

And at the end of the trail, hopefully, Kim will be waiting there for us.

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