Sammamish teen Amol Garg completes the ride of his life for charity
July 31, 2014
Amol Garg is an unusually motivated 14-year-old, and his inner fire fueled another noteworthy accomplishment this summer.
Garg, who will be a Skyline High School freshman in September, has been actively involved around Sammamish for years. He volunteers with a youth-centered charity that uses arts and crafts projects as inspiration, has achieved the rank of Life Scout with Troop 677, and founded a Toastmasters-type club to help fellow children improve their public-speaking and leadership skills.
Amol’s father, Vijay Garg, completed his first marathon last year, and it sparked something in his son.
“It was one of his big dreams, and after seeing him completing his marathon and his dream, I kind of started to think, ‘What’s my dream?’ and ‘What’s something big that I can do?’” Amol said.
Vijay floated the idea of entering the 200-mile Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, or STP, and Amol quickly latched on, despite the fact that he’d never ridden more than 15 miles before.
The STP quickly became more than a personal quest for the Gargs. They wanted to use the event to promote a bigger cause, and they found it in Asha for Education, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping underprivileged children in India.
They set a fundraising goal of $750, and with the help of family and friends, collected $1,160.
Amol said he was inspired by a well-known Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.”
“In my opinion, to end world poverty and to break the cycle of poverty, one needs to be self-sustaining,” Amol said. “… And in my opinion, that can be done throughout education, so the person can get a job later and pursue what he wants.”
Starting in March, father and son began training for the STP with other members of Team Asha Seattle. Their first ride was a simple 15-miler along the Sammamish River Trail. The distances steadily grew longer, and by the time the July 12-13 STP arrived, Amol was well-prepared, having completed three “century rides” of at least 100 miles.
As fate would have it, the STP would provide some extra challenges.
When the riders left Seattle at about 4:45 a.m., temperatures were mild. But after hitting the halfway mark in Centralia, Amol said, the heat became oppressive, reaching near 100 degrees. He put a cold towel around his neck, only to have the water evaporate within a few minutes on the road.
It got worse. At about the 120-mile mark, Amol rode through some sprinklers to cool off, and his wet wheels skidded as he attempted to avoid a curb and a vehicle. He fell onto his right side, tearing up his knee, and he put a big dent in his helmet.
“I know for sure if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet that I would’ve gotten a concussion,” he said.
Amol was quickly patched up, thanks to some nearby paramedics. But with more than 80 miles left to cover on the second day of the STP, questions started to enter his thoughts: Why did I have to get hurt? Why wasn’t I more careful?
“But then again, I felt on the inside that I had a really deep passion and drive to complete the STP,” he added. “It was a big accomplishment for me.”
Vijay said his son had shown plenty of guts during practice rides. On their first century ride, Amol was exhausted after 30 miles, but managed to ride 40 more. So there wasn’t much doubt he was going to finish the STP.
“Nobody had practiced in such hot weather, and we really didn’t see any kids there. He was one of the only ones,” Vijay noted. “When people were getting tired, they were saying, ‘See that boy?’ … People were using him to get energized.”
Amol said he will ride in the STP again next summer, and is already planning to push himself to new heights. He wants to complete it in 14 hours, something few riders manage to do.
His volunteer work with Creative Children for Charity, or 3C, was recognized this year with a Youth Spirit Award by the SAMMI Awards Foundation. In its latest event, the July 4 Summer Splash, 3C raised $3,000 for the foundation as hundreds of people created a colorful canvas with splashes of paint.
Amol shows uncommon discipline and determination to achieve his goals, his father said.
“It seems like he has a purpose in his life,” Vijay said. “One of the things that he has always said to me is that he wants to make a positive difference in the world.”