Steve Schwier, a 1985 Westerville South High School alumnus, is on the ride of his life this month, traveling 1,300 miles on an E-bike from Denver to Westerville to raise money for Meniere's disease research.
Schwier, 53, was diagnosed with Meniere's, a chronic disease for which there is no known cure, in 2013.
He said Meniere's attacks the inner ear, causing vertigo, tinnitus and permanent hearing loss among other symptoms.
"This is an exceedingly rare but debilitating disease, and research funding is low," he said. "I was inspired to embark on this trip to further awareness of this little-known disorder."
Schwier, who resides in Silverthorne, Colorado, said he deals with poor-balance issues, constant dizziness and nausea, vertigo, tinnitus and insomnia during vertigo attacks.
"I'm not an avid cyclist," he said in a social-media post before starting his trip. "Until a month ago, I've only ridden a bike five times in the last eight years.
"I hate exercising and spend 80% of my day in bed. Standing upright is a challenge. Riding a bike an even bigger one. This is why I'm doing this trip. It will push me to my outermost limits. It will be the ride of my life."
Two Meniere's disease nonprofits will receive donations from his ride: Deaf to Meniere's in Europe and the American Hearing Research Foundation in the United States. To find out more about each, go to deaftomenieres.com and american-hearing.org.
Garth Walker, a 1982 Westerville North High School alumnus and 1986 Otterbein College alumnus, is Schwier's brother-in-law.
The two started a charity, On the VertiGO.
"Since my wife, Karen (a 1983 Westerville South graduate), and I moved to Denver nearly three years ago, we have watched Steve work tirelessly toward managing his disease," Walker said. "His strength to be a good husband and father while fighting this affliction has motivated me to do what I can to not only help him but help others that suffer from Meniere's."
He said all the expenses for the ride are being covered by family and friends.
"Every sponsorship penny raised will be donated to the Meniere's foundations," Walker said.
He said Schwier and his wife, Emily, moved to Colorado in 1998 and have an 18-year-old son, Nolan, who just graduated from Summit High School in Breckenridge where he was a star hockey player.
Schwier was a heavy-equipment operator until three years ago, when his illness became such a burden he no longer could work, Walker said.
Schwier's brother, David Schwier, is following him on his ride in a van, providing support along the way.
"Steve will ride on days when he is feeling well and take a day off on days he does not feel well," Walker said. "They are planning on the venture taking the better part of the month of September to allow for down days when Steve's symptoms flare up."
After riding 102 miles the first day Sept. 1, Schwier said, he was tired, a little beat down.
"Things were good," he said. "The bike went good. Thanks to everyone who supported us."
"I rode the first 25 miles with him, and he is excited as we approach the goal of raising $10,000 to be donated to the two causes," Walker said. He said Steve hadn't had any Meniere's-related symptoms the first week of the ride.
"We are keeping him in our prayers to stay healthy the entire ride," Walker said.
Schwier has invited people to join him on his month-long adventure via social-media posts.
Updates and interviews can be found on Facebook at Meniere's: On the Vertigo and Instagram at onthevertigo.
Donations can be made at gofundme.com/f/2j2xw-meniere039s-on-the-vertigo or sent to Steve Schwier, On the Vertigo, 8100 E. Union Ave., No. 2405, Denver, Colorado, 80237.