LIMA — A retired military man, who had served in both Vietnam and Afghanistan, regained control of his health after he was given the wake-up call of a lifetime last winter.
Stanley “Sonny” Shilling, 62, was shopping in late January when he felt like he physically couldn’t go any further. “I knew something was wrong. I just wanted to lay down on the floor right there in Walmart.”
Shilling said that moment was the “final straw” with his health. For more than 30 years with diabetes, he claimed he’d struggled to control his blood sugar. He knew something more was wrong and decided to seek answers as to what was going on with his body.
His doctor referred him to a cardiologist. There he learned he had heart disease, possibly as a result of his diabetes, and had three blockages in his heart.
“In one (artery), I had 100 percent blockage, in another I had 90 percent, and the other I had 30 percent blockage,” Shilling said.
A successful triple bypass surgery followed just a few days later.
Shilling said he didn’t want to be one of those people after major surgery that has the mentality that they can’t do things any longer.
“If you want to sit around and not be active, that’s your prerogative. I’m not a quitter. I’m going to bounce back,” Shilling said.
Aside from the heart disease and diabetes, Shilling had also been a smoker for many years, but quit in 1995. At one point, he had also weighed 70 pounds more than he does currently.
In addition, he had been exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. Doctors had told him many years ago that the Agent Orange probably contributed to the diabetes and, tragically, even to the birth defect in his daughter.
After his surgery, Shilling wanted to find a way to gain back his health and become active again. He learned about the annual Rally Point River Ride held every August in Lima.
This year’s event was held Aug. 9. Individuals and families from several surrounding counties came out for the bicycling event. Riders chose to complete one of three distances: 20, 50 or 62.5 miles (a metric century).
It began at Heritage Park on Reed Road and ended at Ottawa Metro Park on state Route 81 in Lima, which gave riders a 20-mile ride round-trip by using the Rotary River Walk. The longer distances were given routes on “scenic country roads with plenty of creeks and rivers,” according to Diller.
Recently, Shilling decided he was going to ride it. He began bicycling just a few months ago to prepare.
“I started with just one mile. The next time I did five, then 10, 15 and 20. The most I’ve done so far has been 31 miles,” Shilling said, prior to the event.
He said he contacted Jared Diller, Rally Point youth center director and event coordinator for the Rally Point River Ride, about registering for the event.
Shilling explained that Diller encouraged him to try the 50-mile ride. “I just knew he could do it,” Diller said.
The night before the ride, Shilling said, “So this is my goal. I’m a little nervous. I’m not sure I’m going to make it, but I’m going to trust in God. He’s kept me around. I guess (God’s) not done with me yet.”
Shilling’s wife followed him in their vehicle. He said he’d be smart and stop his journey at any point if he feels like he would need to.
In addition to his personal safety net, the Rally Point River Ride provided a team of people in vehicles ready to assist any rider if they could not finish and needed a lift, needed a tire repaired, or needed assistance in any other way. An emergency cell phone number was printed on the wristbands that every rider wore.
Referring to the six years they have been organizing this event, Diller said, “This is something that incorporates both families and individual riders. We also are proud of the local resources with the Rotary River Walk.”
Another participant, Tom Reinsel, also 62, said he has been riding for several years in the Rally Point River Ride. He rides an average of 35-40 miles on his typical outings, and said he was going to complete the 50-mile ride for the event.
Reinsel, who has a history of blood clots, said, “Bicycling is such a great recreational sport.” He expressed that next to swimming, it’s one of the best things for your body because of its low impact.
Mike Horstman, 61, said he likes to ride the 20-mile distance in the Rally Point River Ride, and has been doing so for the past few years.
“It’s fun to get out and be with such good people,” Horstman said, and explained why this annual bicycling fundraiser for Rally Point is so important for people to support.
Horstman said, “I drive a delivery truck and spend a lot of time in Lima. I see kids walking to school, and I wonder how they even have a chance to make it. Parents are at work, in jail, or who knows where. The family structure is terrible. Everybody’s too busy for each other.”
He said that when he was raised, he had the privilege of growing up in a good home with a strong family unit. He had structure every day after school.
“I think Rally Point does that. It’s a good, safe place for kids to go. There are people there you can trust,” Horstman said.
According to its website, Rally Point Youth Center’s mission is “… to provide teens with a safe, positive, and drug-free environment. Through the leadership of caring Christian adults, Rally Point seeks to give teenagers sound guidance for their mind, body and soul using biblical principals. The youth center also seeks to help all teenagers in the Lima community who have little positive guidance, poor self-esteem and no ambitions. The youth center is open to middle and high school students between the grades 6 through 12 (from age 12 until their 19th birthday).
Referring to the difference Rally Point can make in the lives of Lima youth, Horstman said, “We’ll probably never know how much good it does.”
According to Diller, funds raised from the Rally Point River Ride provide about 25 percent of the organization’s annual operating budget. The rest of the funding comes from donations from churches, business, and individuals, as well as other smaller fundraisers.
This year, the Rally Point River Ride started and finished this year at Heritage Park, but traditionally has been at Ottawa Metro Park. Diller has been very pleased with the event turnout each year, which keeps growing. A great team of volunteers works tirelessly each year to pull off the event.
Shilling, who began his bike ride around 8 a.m., had some people eagerly awaiting news of his return. Around 1 p.m., he rolled into Heritage Park after successfully completely his 50-mile goal.
Answering a question about how he felt, he said with a big smile on his face, “Tired.” He also added that he plans to do the 62.5-mile course next year, “Lord willing.”
For more information about Rally Point Youth Center and the annual Rally Point River Ride, visit: www.rallyup.org.