Summer is a time to relax for most people, but not for 21-year-old Joey Michels. The Fond du Lac man recently fulfilled a life-long goal to bike 4,000 miles across the United States.
Michels set out on his journey from the coast of California on June 1 with companions Matt Frintner and Nate Martin by his side. The goal was to complete the 4,000 mile journey at Portland, Maine.
The purpose of the ride was more than self-fulfillment. It was about raising funds and awareness of juvenile arthritis, a condition that Michels has lived with for most of his life. His ride was part of the Arthritis Foundation’s Joints in Motion program.
Michels was diagnosed with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis when he was 3 years old and remembers a childhood filled with hospital visits, medication, IVs and pain. Soon after the diagnosis, his mother found the Arthritis Foundation and quickly became involved.
As an adult, Michels still has arthritis flares, but does not let them stop him.
“I want to share my story in hopes that it will inspire other kids with JA,” he said. “Even though it hurts and some days are worse than others, you cannot let it stop you.”
Throughout the journey, Michels inspired and educated many. In July, he visited the Juvenile Arthritis Conference in St. Louis to speak to families facing similar challenges.
“This journey, as much as it was for me, is more for kids and adults with arthritis,” he said. “I want to inspire people and show them that there is hope beyond their disease.”
A Welcome Home Celebration for Joey Michels is set Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. at Lakeside Park’s DeNevue Shelter (accessed by Winnebago Drive and Harbor View Drive). The celebration is open to the public and will include a short presentation.