Team Joe’s all smiles at close of 2014 Wish-a-Mile

Team Joe's hung together all day as we headed into MIS.  Sure made taking pictures easier!  More importantly, we could soak up the beauty of our last day.
Team Joe’s hung together all day as we headed into MIS. Sure made taking pictures easier! More importantly, we could soak up the beauty of our last day.

Getting out of bed for the last day of WAM is a feeling that words just don’t do justice.  The body is tired (and likely sore in certain areas), it is dark outside (we typically get up around 4:30am) and the thought of putting your rear end back on the bike seat is the farthest thing from your mind.  But you also have a feeling of excitement about what the day will bring – the finish and the Heroes Hurrah that celebrates our wish kids that completes our journey that began last Thursday morning.  So, with all those feelings, Team Joe’s was ready to roll with some of our group hitting the road at 6am and some following at 6:30am.  We were missing Rosalie, Ralph and Alex which was sad but they had a family wedding and family always comes first.

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The Day 3 route is 93 miles mostly into the wind from Dewitt to Brooklyn (home of MIS) as we head south and zig zag through many narrow but flat back roads.  We all managed to come together after our 9:30am lunch stop and ride the rest of way in together.  We did hit a few hills around Brooklyn just to remind us and our legs that this wasn’t a totally easy day.  We made good time through the day and ended up at MIS around 2pm ready to enter the track and ride our last mile on the MIS Speedway before crossing the finish line.  We were joined by our two WAM50 riders, Jenny Cotton Pruitt and Mary Wherly.   We paused at the Silent Mile which is a section of lawn outside MIS that was full of stars containing the faces and names of loved ones lost.  I had the honor to pick two stars for members of our St. Joe’s family.  One star was for Ryan Clark, son of Rory Clark and the other was for Maria Tocco Miller, sister of Rosalie Tocco-Bradley.  To see their smiling faces greeting us was so up-lifting.  After giving honor to loved ones lost, we entered the track and crossed to the applause and cheering of over two thousand people who were family members of riders, wish kids and staff.  It brought a tear to many of our eyes and the hugs and high fives were abundant as it dawned on us what we had accomplished.  The best was yet to come……

It was time to meet our adopted wish hero – Jessica H.  All of us wore a bracelet with Jessica’s name for the entire ride.  She was a delightful young lady who had just had her face painted like a Tiger.  Jessica’s wish was to “swim with dolphins” and she got her wish last May.  She is resilient and “one tough cookie” as her Mom described her.  She suffers from SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) but she refuses to be defeated.  Seeing her courage and determination made all us realize that 3 days and 300 miles on a bike was nothing.  Jessica took photos with us and also gave each of us our own medal of accomplishment.  The emotions were running high as this was truly the highlight of our WAM.

As I wrap up, let me thank all the members of Team Joe’s for agreeing to be part of this great event and this great cause.   We rode for kids who have had their childhood stolen away by life threatening illnesses and families who have to watch their children go through some very difficult challenges.  We rode and raised money to grant wishes to these amazing kids and I am proud that St. Joe’s and Team Joe’s supports these kids.  We had many new members of Team Joe’s along for their first ride.  I know each came on with much apprehension and each wondering if they could actually ride the 300 or the 50 miles and now they know they can!  In fact, my money is on them all coming back.

That is a wrap for WAM2014.  Thanks to all of you who supported Team Joe’s with donations, prayers and support.

In good health,

Rob Casalou
President & CEO
St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor & Livingston
Team Joe’s Captain


A special wish

By Rob Casalou
Team Joe’s Captain and President/CEO of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor & Livingston

Although each day of the WAM is unique and special, Day 2 is both the longest riding day and the longest day in total from start to finish. We start the day with riding and we end it with the annual WAM awards event called the WAMMIES that we hold in the Dewitt High School auditorium.

By the end of the day, we were all physically and emotionally drained but left each of us with a feeling of being part of something bigger than any one person or team. It was a day that grounds us in why we are out here riding – for the kids. And although the last thing we want to think about is getting back on the bike for another 93 miles tomorrow, today’s experience will make that riding that much easier.

For most of the team, riding started at 6:30am. Rosalie, Alex and Ralph left at 6am because they needed to finish as early as possible because they have to leave WAM to go to a family wedding on Saturday night. Personally, I can’t imagine doing that but that just tells you how dedicated Rosalie and her family are because many would have just canceled out on WAM. We will miss them tomorrow for sure but know they will be in our thoughts.

As we cut through the Michigan countryside taking in the beauty of our state (along with several whiffs of road kill), we rolled through towns we had not heard of before but realized how lucky we are to live in Michigan. We learned more about wheat and corn from Bill Holmes than we needed to know but it did help the time pass by…. 🙂


Given today was 109 miles, we needed to pick up our pace and we lucked out in joining a group of riders and formed a large group (like a peleton if you are into the Tour de France) and we moved at a quick pace for the first three hours.

In fact, we arrived at our lunch stop at 9:30am. I’m not sure how you call that lunch but we were hungry so we ignored the time. I joked with my teammates that our WAM experience is good preparation for when we are in our 90s. When you think about it, on WAM we get up at 4:30am, we eat lunch at 10am and go to bed by 9pm. Sound familiar? 🙂

As we started our ride today, we were staring at a beautiful double rainbow with a large storm cell sending lightning bolts in the background. After admiring the rainbows, the cell moved in and we rode in a downpour for at least 2-3 miles. But, after the rain stopped, the wind helped dry us off and we had nothing but perfect weather the entire day. In fact, it got humid and hot and fluids were going fast. When we finished around 2:30pm, we realized that we did 109 miles in the same time it took us to do the 99 miles the day before – that would be because today was long but fewer hills (thank you God).

After we finished, it was time to get changed and back to the high school for dinner and the WAMMIES. This is a sprited awards show that always spotlights our wish kids. Tonight was no exception and we were treated with two wish kids acting as hosts of the show, 30 wish kids on stage with the stories of their Disney wishes. Then, at the end of the show, the Make-A-Wish staff arranged for a young man, Quinton, to received his Disney wish at the awards show. How cool.

Here is a cute shot of Quinton peeking out the window.

Team Joe’s was one of the top fundraising teams on the WAM. This year we beat our $50,000 team goal and now stand over $53,000 . Many of these dollars are from our St. Joe’s family and, for this, please accept a heartfelt thanks.


So, tomorrow is our last day. Our route is 93 miles and we intend to get out early so we can finish at the MIS Speedway by 2pm. We hear weather is coming into MIS so we wanted to beat the rain if possible. We will be on the road at 6:30am. Now to sleep….zzzzzzzz

Jodi snapped this one as our day ended reciting “Red sky at night, sailors delight.” Let’s hope that holds true for our last day.

Memories along the way

Rob Casalou’s daughter, Julie, who is volunteering for the WAM, had a chance to meet one of our Wish Kids. This is Olivia. Olivia’s wish was to publish her own book! And she did! Her book contains pictures and poems created by this wonderful little girl. She gave Julie a signed book for her to keep. 🙂

At lunch on Friday’s ride. Can you tell that Rosalie is the life of the party?? 🙂

Here is a nice pic of Jodi Talbott and Nick Graham. Jodi is an RN in the Ann Arbor ED.

Awesome pic by David Steinberg at the start of Day 2 with Rob Casalou in the foreground and a double rainbow as we headed into a storm. Good news is that it rained hard for only a couple miles with beautiful weather the rest of the day.

20140726-200741-72461197.jpgRob and Tom Mihalski holding each other up at a breakstop.

20140726-200831-72511935.jpgSunscreen is a must on the WAM as shown by Tom Mihalski.

20140726-200913-72553640.jpgNick and Jodi still smiling after two days on their first WAM.

20140726-200955-72595368.jpgRalph, Rosalie and Alex deep into Day 2. We are sad that the three of them will not be able to finish with us on Day 3 because of a family wedding tonight. So we told them to wear their Team Joe’s jerseys. The rest of us will wear the team colors tomorrow.

20140726-201030-72630259.jpgRo and Alex. It was great seeing Mom and son riding for wishes together.

On the road again

Russ Olmsted, Rob Casalou, David Steinberg and Lee Benjamin at breakfast to begin Day 2.  David is hoping that (dietitian) Lisa McDowell does not see what is on his plate this morning! it would not pass the heart smart test. no worry, it will be burned off within the first couple hours.  It is early and wheels will be on the road by 6:30am.  Weather  forecast looks better!

Day 1 recap: Traverse City to Big Rapids

Ralph Dallier, Rob Casalou and Lee Benjamin enjoy a light moment. The jersey Rob is wearing that has a medal painted on the front, was designed by a wish child. It was an honor to wear it.

Day 1 Journal:

The day started early with Team Joe’s riders fed and ready to hit the road by 6:30am. Our actual departure time was 6:40am (waiting for a couple last minute stragglers) which set Rosalie Tocco-Bradley in motion because she wanted an “on-time start” (a hazard of her day job). But, with spirits high, the team set off from Traverse City.

Today was the day of hills and climbing. The total distance was about 99 miles our first day and it felt like 50 of them were on inclines varying from short bursts to long ones that burned the legs. A few were placed in cruel areas like the largest of the day at mile 90 – really? We all looked at it, said some things that Sister Yvonne would not approve, and dug in. The good news is that everyone survived, everyone was smiling and we were greeted at Ferris State by kids and families clapping us to the finish line. We then all headed to our respective hotels or tents because showers were wanted and NEEDED. Once again, the Make-A-Wish team provided everything we needed including a wonderful dinner. For the record, Ferris State has the BEST food.

As we wrap up day 1 most of us will be lights out very early to begin Day 2 even earlier. Tomorrow is our long day – 109 miles. The route has less hills so the challenge is distance. And our prize at the end of the day is the WHAMMY Awards after dinner in Dewitt where we celebrate the success of the event but, more importantly, we will be joined by many wish kids. In fact, we will be granting a wish at the WHAMMY’S this year – how special.

I am so blessed to be with some awesome Team Joe’s members along with 850 of our new friends all out here riding to grant wishes. I am proud and grateful of everyone on Team Joe’s. Have a good night all. More to come tomorrow.


Team Joe’s all smiles after stage 1

Many members to Team Joe’s met up at a late break stop. We may be weary but it was a photo op.

Lee Benjamin and Jodi Talbott getting ready to take off and show all of us how tough the ED crew is!

Bill Holmes and Rosalie Tocco-Bradley figure if the cycling thing doesn’t work out, then dancing may be the next best option!

As the day winds down, the smiles are still there. From left, Sheila Marcus, Rosalie Tocco-Bradley, Alex Bradley, Rob Casalou, Jodi Talbott, Nick Graham, Tom Mihalski.

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