THE PHELPS FAMILY: KEEPING MEMORIES ALIVE BY HELPING OTHERS

One gray day last August, Dale Phelps took a seat on his old racing bike and took off from his home in Albany, intending to train for the ride he’d scheduled for the following week.

But sometimes things just feel right, and in spite of a light rain and some lightening in the distance, the training ride turned into the real thing, and Dale kept on going – completing a 100.3 mile loop in just under 5 1/2 hours.

Even a portable intravenous device couldn't stop Erin Phelps, pictured on her bike. Dale Phelps after his 100-mile bike ride honoring his daughter Erin.

With Eric Clapton and Ben Harper pumping in his iPod, he said, “I was in a zone, feeling peaceful. So I decided to keep on going.”

There was no fanfare, no reporters, only a father and his determination to do something his daughter could only dream of doing: Riding a bike for hours on end, for hope and for $1,700 in donations raised for the Donna M. Crandall Foundation.

Dale’s daughter Erin had CF, and was the inspiration for the ride. Born on her Dad’s birthday, April 16, in 1981, Erin died two months before her 21st birthday.

Erin wasn’t far from her dad’s mind as he rode. “I just felt at peace with things,” he said. “It reminded me of Erin, trying to breathe. When you know you can do things others struggle to do, it can be motivating. I thought of the things Erin went through and didn’t complain. It made me think, ‘I can do this, too.’ It was a milestone I could reach.” And so he did.

According to Dale’s wife Annette, Erin was a happy person who was always smiling. “In spite of all she went through, it was normal to her because she didn’t know any different,” said Annette. “We tried to live as normal a life as possible, and she was usually upbeat.”

“Normal” for Erin meant spending a lot of time in the hospital, but Annette recalled that, “Erin looked forward to getting the Crandall gift bags when she was in the hospital,” which was about 46 times a year. “She had to deal with so much,” Annette explained. “At least when she was told she was going to be admitted (to the hospital), she had something exciting to look forward to. In fact, there were times we wondered if she wanted to be admitted just to get a bag!”

Erin’s favorite contents included handheld electronic games, Gummi bears and trial-size Herbal Essence shampoos. A few times a year, Annette volunteers to shop and assemble the coveted DMC Foundation gift bags for inpatients. She tries to include Herbal Essence shampoos as homage to Erin.

Over the years, the Phelps family has been generous in its support of the Foundation. In lieu of gifts for their 18th birthdays, Erin’s brother Bryon and three of his friends asked that contributions be made to the Foundation. Erin helped count the gifts. Bryon did the same thing five years later, when he completed his graduate degree from Clark University. This time, it was in his sister’s memory.