Delaney Johnson

Biking is just one outdoor activity that Delaney Johnson, pictured, enjoys. Others include swimming and skiing.

The organizers of a yearly outdoor event, and the parents of an active local girl, aren’t letting the coronavirus pandemic stop them from raising awareness and funding for charity. It’s just going to look a little different than it has in recent years.

Del’s Ride 2020 is set to take place this upcoming Monday, Sept. 7 at Sleepy Hollow Ski & Bike Center in Huntington, and there are only about 25 spots left at press time of this story.

The seventh annual bike ride and trail run will once again help in the fight against alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC) and benefit Cure AHC in support of Delaney Johnson, an 11-year-old from Essex Junction.

“It’s her favorite day of the year,” said Delaney’s father, Ben Johnson. “If she sees somebody in a Del’s Ride shirt, she just clues in on it so quickly. We're lucky we're going to be able to do a little something just to kind of keep the momentum going and keep the brand name out there for Del’s Ride, so that next year we can get back to the bigger event.”

Because of COVID-19, this year’s happening will be limited to a total of 75 participants with 15 going out every half hour -- that sized grouping being similar to the inaugural ride six years ago. However, a “Ride on Your Own” option is also available for additional bikers and runners, those who can’t make it to Sleepy Hollow that day, or those who would rather not attend in person.

Participants who ride or run on their own are encouraged to submit their plans to the event’s organizers to be shared on social media, and they will also receive an official Del’s Ride t-shirt and stickers, just as if they were there. “On the day of the event select a ride or run that will push you to work hard and demonstrate a little perseverance,” states the event’s website.

That perseverance requested will mirror that of Delaney, a rising fifth grader at Thomas Fleming School, who has battled AHC for most of her life -- being diagnosed with it when she was just 10 months old. When she was four, she was also diagnosed with epilepsy.

Still, “Del,” who wears braces on both of her legs, tries to get outside and stay as active as she can. Along with her parents, Ben and Katrina Sliwka, Delaney spends her weekends skiing, biking, and swimming whenever possible. For the last six years, she’s been hitting the slopes at Smugglers’ Notch through the resort’s adaptive ski program.

“She loves it,” said Ben. “Especially the last couple years where we've discovered buying her heated vests and stuff like that. Because, on some days, she'd been getting cold, and it's hard for her to tell you that that's what's happening. So now that we've got her heated socks and a heated vest, we've been a little bit more successful the last couple years.”

Last year, the event raised $22,000, bringing the total since 2014 to over $112,000. Registration for Del’s Ride 2020 has a minimum donation of $75 due at the time of signing up, and additional fund raising is encouraged. This year, the highest-two fund-raising individuals will win a Moccamaster coffee machine and coffee courtesy of Saw-Dog Coffee Roasters in South Burlington.

Registration is open until Sunday night while slots last and can be done by visiting cureahc.charityproud.org/EventRegistration/Index/4148.

The first time slot of the day is slated for 8:30 a.m. with the last being for 10:30 a.m.

Current circumstances will not allow for day-of registration, nor will there be kids activities, adaptive rides, or the post-event barbecue this year.

The mountain bike portion of the event has riders take on a challenging 20-miles circuit, dubbed “Del’s Loop,” which starts at Sleepy Hollow, follows the trails through the back of the site, weaves in and out of the Hinesburg Town Forest, through the Carse Hill Trails, and then returns to the ski and bike center. Estimated ride time is between 4-5 hours.

Runners will stay on Sleepy Hollow’s trails and navigate a course that’s five miles long.

To make a donation of any amount at any time, without participating, go to cureahc.charityproud.org/Donate/?cid=3402. To learn more about Delaney and Del’s Ride, visit delsride.org or go to the event’s Facebook page.

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