Personal Best: Couple to bike coast in memory of daughter

Dwight and Maria Powery have turned their sorrow into service.

On Saturday, the Powerys, together with Team Also Touch, will be departing from San Francisco to ride in the Arthritis Foundation’s 10th annual California Coast Classic Bicycle Tour.

Dwight and the couple’s oldest daughter, Evelyn, first completed the eight-day, 525-mile ride to Los Angeles in 2007.

Christiana, the youngest of the three Powery girls, died at the age of 10 in December 2005. The talented basketball player, who suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis from the age of 7, contracted another autoimmune disease, juvenile dermatomyositis, and a rare blood condition, thrombocytopenic purpura.

Christiana lived her final three months at Stanford Hospital. Many of her attending medical staff would visit the charming and engaging patient on their days off. Fifty Stanford medical professionals were among the mourners at Christiana’s memorial service.

Two of the doctors encouraged the Powerys to join them on the CCC ride, and Team Also Touch was born.

“Christiana spent a lot of time praying for other people,” Maria said, describing the genesis of the team name. “‘Also touch’ … were the last two words that she wrote in her journal.”

Last year, with middle daughter Serena having started college, Maria was free to train for and participate in the CCC. To augment the weekday spin classes and short 20- to 30-mile rides, the team trainer leads all-day Saturday rides that include 5,500-7,000 feet of climbing.

“A nice, smooth downhill is the reward for climbing all of those hills,” Dwight said. “We were active before, but we would ride three to five miles and think we’re done. If someone told me that I would be riding 65 miles in a day or riding the coast, I’d have thought that they were crazy.”

A separated shoulder from a fall he incurred on a training ride won’t stop Dwight from honoring his little girl. It amazes Maria that her husband continued to coach Christiana’s basketball team the three seasons following her death.

“It took me a year to even watch a basketball game,” Maria said.

The couple met as students at Columbia University. They moved out West as employees of Hewlett-Packard, where Dwight continues to work as an account manager. One of Christiana’s doctors introduced Maria to Green Pastures, a Mountain View group home for six developmentally disabled children.

“I need to help disabled children,” Maria said. “I have nine children, one is living in heaven, but God has given me six additional children here on Earth.”

10th annual California Coast Classic

Start: Saturday, Fisherman’s Wharf

Finish: Oct. 2, Los Angeles

Day 3: Dwight’s personal favorite ride is along the Big Sur coastline

Day 5: The Powerys will celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary riding from San Simeon to Pismo Beach

Money raised: In its four years, Team Also Touch has raised $80,000 for the Arthritis Foundation

Info: (800) 464-6240; www.2010CCCNCA.Kintera.org

Team website: www.alsotouch.com

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