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Ebers to circle globe for asthma

Five months and counting: the Eber family – (L-R) Lorenz Eber, Anya, Yvonne, and Paula Holmes-Eber get ready for their bike tour to benefit asthma research. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
Five months and counting: the Eber family – (L-R) Lorenz Eber, Anya, Yvonne, and Paula Holmes-Eber get ready for their bike tour to benefit asthma research.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

The Eber family’s New Year’s resolution will be more ambitious than most next year.

On Jan. 1, 2003, Paula Holmes-Eber; husband Lorenz Eber, an engineer with the city; and daughters Anya and Yvonne will embark on a world-wide biking adventure to raise money to treat asthma.

The family will spend 20 months travelling through 25 countries on a pair of tandem bicycles.

The payoff: Corporate sponsors have pledged a total of $5 million to the World Bike For Breath Foundation, which Holmes-Eber founded last year.

“We wanted to make a real difference,” Holmes-Eber said, “and in order to do that you need to raise a lot of money.

“But when you think that High School Road is costing $2.5 million, $5 million doesn’t seem like that much.”

Lifelong cause

For Holmes-Eber, the journey is about more than raising money. At age 2, she was diagnosed with severe asthma that greatly restricted her activities.

“When I was a little kid, I never would have thought that I would be able to do something like this,” she said. “But I would never give up.

“When people are born healthy they abuse it, but when you are sick you really have to try and then become proud of your accomplishments.”

Last year, Holmes-Eber set out to demonstrate exactly what one family could accomplish.

In cooperation with the American Lung Association, the International Asthma Services and the Asthma and Allergy Association of America, she created World Bike For Breath, and began planning the family bike trip that would raise awareness and funds for asthma sufferers.

“Ten percent of this country now has asthma,” Holmes-Eber said. “That is 2.4 million people, most of whom do not have the funds to receive proper medication.

“Our goal is for this to be a Bainbridge Island project, to get medical care for people around the world and for the poor in the United States.”

Heavy peddling

The Ebers are no strangers to long cycling trips.

In the past four years, the quartet has biked 5,000 miles, including trips down the Oregon Coast, through the Gulf Islands and up and down Alaska.

To meet their goal – 15,000 miles by August 2004 – the Ebers plan to peddle 40 miles each day, roughly five hours of cycling.

That schedule allows for 10 bike-free days each month for the family to enjoy their surroundings – beginning with the Hawaiian Islands, where the family will ride the first 200 miles of their tour.

After an 1,800-mile ride through New Zealand’s South Island and Australia, the Ebers will journey to Asia, where they’ll travel 2,800 miles through Bali, China, Hong Kong and Japan. Heading north to Russia, the family will pass through Moscow, arriving in Eastern Europe by the 2004 New Year.

After completing another 5,700 miles with tours through the Mediterranean, England and Scotland, they will end the trip with a 4,500-mile journey across Canada and the United States.

The Ebers hope to cycle into Seattle in August 2004 accompanied by the 100 corporate and individual sponsors of their tour.

Bike to school

Holmes-Eber, a professor at the University of Washington where she teaches anthropology and Middle East studies, plans to homeschool her two children for the time that they will miss from school.

“I can’t think of a better hands-on learning experience,” she said. “Anya and Yvonne will be able to apply mathematics along the way, and the geography and history that the two will gain will be phenomenal.”

Holmes-Eber also hopes to educate the public on the trip, through visits to U.S. universities on the last leg of their journey. Teachers can also find pages that teach history and geography from the Foundation website.

For their part, 12-year-old Anya and 10-year-old Yvonne are excited about the journey.

“We’ve set up a website for other kids to email us when we are away,” Anya Eber said. “But we will be having so much fun that the time will go by really fast.”

“This is an adventure of a lifetime,” Lorenz Eber said, “and we want our children to be a part of that.

“About half of the money we raise is going to be go towards medical care for children, and having our children know that they are a part of that is very important.”

* * * * *

For more information about the World Bike For Breath Foundation, visit the website, www.bikeforbreath.com or email the Eber family at bikeforbreath@hotmail.com.

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