All on a bicycle, to raise $5,000 for charity.
David Simmerman has given himself just five days to get there.
Starting on June 24 — two days before Simmerman’s 50th birthday — he’ll embark on the roughly 530-mile journey that will take him from Mountain City to Morristown, Chattanooga, Lawrenceburg, Savannah and, finally, to Memphis on June 28.
“I’m going to be doing it ‘lean and mean’, but I don’t see anything (stopping me) barring a crash,” Simmerman said. “Even in the rain — I’m riding in the rain — So, I think I’ll be OK for five days.”
Simmerman is a Jonesborough native who’s always been active, participating in both a marathon and triathlon in his life, but not always a bicyclist. In fact, it was a back injury that turned him to cycling — an activity that didn’t put as much stress on his body.
The ride across Tennessee, as he’ll happily tell you, isn’t about him though.
It’s about the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home, an organization that provides “nurturing homes for children in hard places across Tennessee.” And while Leoma Baptist Church, where Simmerman is a pastor, is a supporter of the organization, Simmerman’s motivation to help goes deeper.
Nearly two decades ago, he and his wife, LeAnn, were told they couldn’t have any more children. Still wanting kids though, they themselves turned to adoption, and now their adopted daughter, Olivia, is 14 years old — as are the couple’s twin boys, who were born that same year.
“My wife and I have four kids, we had a boy — wanted more kids, and doctors told us we couldn’t have any more, so we went the adoption route and adopted a little girl,” Simmerman said. “Then, when she was 2 months old, lo and behold, my wife and I got pregnant with twin boys.”
“We had three babies in nine months, and it’s just been a story of our life,” he said.
As a result of adopting their daughter though, the subject of adoption became “near and dear” to their hearts.
“Adoption and getting kids forever homes is just a real heart string for my wife and I,” Simmerman said. “I have a real heart for the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home.”
Simmerman plans to leave each day before 6 a.m. and travel about 100 miles per day. And at the 15 mph pace he’s planning for, that means he’ll be biking almost nonstop until around 1 p.m. everyday. He won’t be alone though, as he said he has cyclist friends across the state — two of whom have said they’ll join him for “30 or 40 miles” — and some of his children are going to make the final 10-to-15-mile leg to their house on day four, where he plans to stay before heading to Memphis.
Simmerman says anyone can join him for all or part of his journey by contacting him at [email protected] And while the thought of him being trailed by a myriad of cyclists may elicit memories of Forrest Gump’s cross country run, Simmerman isn’t expecting quite that many people to join.
“I just told people ‘if you want to, that’s great,’ I don’t anticipate a whole lot of people doing that, but if they want to that’d be great,” he said. “My wife said the same thing, picturing that scene in “Forrest Gump,” but I don’t know if it’ll be that many,” Simmerman said with a laugh.
Anyone who’s interested in supporting Simmerman or his cause can follow his progress on Facebook (@DRAT2019) or donate in honor of his ride at https://tennessseechildren.org and clicking the “donate” tab. Simmerman has already raised nearly $1,000, and says he hopes he can surpass his $5,000 goal.
“It’s really not about David Simmerman, it’s about Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home,” he said.