IMG_0136About 6 months ago I was helping out at Wheels on Fire in San Jose on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Wheels on Fire is a club of sorts. It’s a place where athletes of all ages can go and play different sports each week under the supervision of wheelchair bound and non wheelchair coaches. I’d been enjoying my regular visits to WOF for many years, assisting many of the young athletes achieve their personal goals by raising money to buy them sport wheelchairs. If you’ve read previous articles on this blog you’ll know that I have personally funded or been able to raise funds to help over 15 disabled athletes ditch their regular wheelchairs, one’s which are virtually impossible to play sports in, and upgrade them into sport chairs,  opening up a completely new dimension for them when it comes to games participation. It’s been an incredible experience, not only for me, but for all the other’s I’ve introduced to WOF, other’s such as the softball team my daughter played on, Bay Blizzard, another team from San Jose City College coached by Debbie Rooney and a soccer team from Silicon Valley coached by my friend Ben Maxwell. On each occasion the disabled athletes have been challenged by the athletes from the teams mentioned above to play their sports in chairs and not on two feet. It’s an eye-opening experience for all and an experience that the able-bodied have come away from with a new appreciation on just how difficult life is when you are permanently wheelchair bound. When you talk to Alicia, Lee, Anna and the other athletes at WOF, they are super positive, superbly optimistic and genuinely overwhelmed by the support provided not only by me but by everyone who has had the privilege of competing with and fully understanding the difficulties these athletes face on a daily basis. And so, on that particular Saturday all those months ago, I walked into the gym on Union Ave in San Jose and I met Michael.

Michael was shy at first but then within moments became a fierce competitor in the games we were playing. At that time, Michael had a regular chair, although it cost an absolute fortune to purchase this for him. At 6 years of age, I could tell immediately Michael was a true competitor. I walked up to his mother Tricia and suggested that we try to raise funds to buy Michael a new sport chair. Tricia was hesitant, but knew that I was being very serious and after a few moments, when the realization sunk in that my offer was serious, she accepted. I wanted to know more about Michael, and as you will read below, this is how his condition was described to me by his mother.

Michael was diagnosed at age one with Central Core Myopathy, a genetic disease that affects the muscles throughout his body. In conjunction with this he has scoliosis of his spine and problems with his hip sockets.

By age two he had two surgeries to correct his hip dysplasia and was in a full body cast each time for six weeks. At age four and a half he had his first spine surgery to place rods on each side of his spine to straighten his spine.   Every six months he continues to have surgery to lengthen the rods to accommodate for his growth.

He has physical therapy and occupational therapy sessions weekly since his very first surgeries.

And, in between all of these medical procedures (and because of these procedures) he can participate in sports activities. In fact, his sports activities have become his “life.” He participates in wheelchair soccer, and little league baseball where he has made numerous friends and thrives on the team spirit with his teammates and coaches. He takes swimming lessons and even goes bowling. He is an avid Sharks, 49er and Giants fan.

As an example of sports being so important to him, he recently had surgery to lengthen the rods in his spine. He was signed up for sports camp for two weeks after his surgery.   There were some complications and he ended up in the hospital for eight days and had two surgeries during those eight days. Hope was dwindling while he was in the hospital that he would be able to go to camp. He was released from the hospital on Saturday and there was nothing that would keep him from going to camp on Monday morning – he went!

He is in his wheelchair for all of his sports activities, but he does have leg braces that allow him to stand and walk a short distance. When he graduated from kindergarten earlier this year, he walked with his braces part way across the classroom to receive his diploma (refusing an outstretched hand to help him for balance along the way.) His future goal is to walk across the entire stage to receive his high school diploma.

He’s just a six year old kid with a desire to do everything (especially sports) that any other kids his age can do. It just takes him a little more effort of which he seems to have an unending supply. Sports camps and activities in the community provide him that opportunity to be just like every other kid.

Michael Chair 5I called my friend Debbie Rooney, she’s the coach for the softball team at San Jose City college. Debbie had helped me raise money in the past to buy two other chairs that we’d presented to athletes in 2014. “Debbie” I said, “you told me you wanted to go out and raise money, as a team, for another chair, well I have the perfect candidate” And so it was initiated. The team started fund-raising and within 4 moths all the money to purchase this chair for Michael was raised and banked. These chairs don’t come cheap. They cost over $3000 each. They are custom-built for each athlete and take 4 months to manufacture.

Last weekend, Michael finally received his chair, presented to him by Coach Debbie, and some of her San Jose City college players. Michael was ecstatic, as were his family, and now he, as the rest of his teammates at WOF, has a new lease on his sports life!

It’s not hard to see from Michael’s face how this will change his life and the lives of all who adore him. It’s a blessing that we are able to do this for him and for so many others in this program. WOF is part of Far West Wheelchair Sports, and just by going to smile.amazon.com and nominating FWWAA, you too can change a life with every purchase you make. Amazon donate part of your spend to this very worthy cause, and you don’t have to do any more other than buy your favorite items on their site.

From my past experience and the experience of those who I’ve brought into this program, we all feel that this is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding charitable causes on the planet. I hope that Michael will grow into a super Paralympic athlete, and one day make us even more proud that we helped support his growth into the fine young man I am sure he will become.


Harrison’s Plight

UntitledToday I am introducing a guest writer to my blog, and a very good friend, Mary Ehlert. Mary is a resident of Portland OR, and we have known each other for a very long time. Mary and I are getting involved in fundraising for the child of another good friend of ours. His name is Harrison. Harrison was born just three years ago and he has a very rare kidney disease that was going to kill him unless he received a transplant. That transplant has now come to fruition and is all set up for November 8th, just a few weeks from now. To get this stage has been a physical and logistical nightmare for all involved, and the cost, as you can imagine, has been incredibly steep, not only from a financial standpoint, but from the effort involved in making it happen, the testing, the ability to find the right doctor and hospital and the toll it has taken on not only his parent’s life, but on Harrison himself, who, bless him, has been a complete trooper thus far.

I’ll let Mary take over from here and I will rejoin the blog at the end.

Hi Everyone, I am Mary, and I’ve known Harrison since he was born. Below is a brief description on both Harrison and his condition. Harrison and his parents need your help. Alan will tell you more at the end of this article on how we plan to raise the money required to keep Harrison alive. In the meantime, enjoy my brief description of the most wonderful child.

“Cartoons on You Tube are the best! And ‘Shake It Off, Shake It Off’ is THE BEST song.” Name a video parody of a top ten hit and Harrison has found it on the interwebs…


Harrison is a rambunctious three-year-old and a tremendous source of pride and happiness for his parents, Travis and Rory.


He has all this energy with only one kidney functioning at 10% of full capacity: only one kidney and it’s teeny, tiny.


“My project’s at school. I’m in the big classroom”, he says crashing trucks, demolishing the clean kitchen. Grayson is his best friend. “He pushes me. I push back. Collin is my new best friend.” says H (as we call him).


I think that this last phrase sums up Harrison’s gentle, but fighting spirit!


Harrison’s mom and dad knew from their 20-week pre-natal check up that H had bronchial auto renal disorder (that’s doctor talk for a very small kidney).


Before his birth on August 20th, 2012 all the specialists shared worst-case scenarios with Rory and Travis: every horrible, scary complication that can occur with kidney disease. There were dozens. Doctors weren’t even sure that H would make it to delivery. Rory and Travis were left wondering if they would ever share a smile or a cuddle with their first baby.


Harrison needs a new kidney. He needs it soon. His kidney function has diminished significantly and this finally qualifies him for a transplant.


Harrison’s parents are each a match to donate a kidney to him. Rory’s superior powers of persuasion and tenacity (you won’t win an argument with her, but good on you for trying, Travis!) mean that in only a few weeks, she will undergo surgery to donate her right kidney to be transplanted into their son.


For the rest of his life, H will have to take a daily regimen of anti-rejection medications.


H has had to undergo painful daily growth hormone shots for more than a year in order to grow large enough for the surgery. Why? H’s abdomen has to be big enough to accommodate his surgeon’s entire hand while he gently places the new kidney.


This will be H’s third surgery.


He has already had brain surgery to reduce an accumulation of fluids and surgery on his neck to close open ‘pits’.


H is brave.

H is gentle.

H is resilient.

H is patient.

H has gorgeous blue eyes and eyelashes that are so long, dark and thick.

H calls me ‘my Mary’


And all of us who love him can’t wait to see him healthy and tearing up a kitchen, a playground, a pool near you soon…



Thanks Mary.

To find the surgeon, the hospital and the money to make all of this happen, took over a year. We have made pins, just like the picture below, that cost $100 each, and which enter each and every one of you who purchase one into a raffle draw to win some incredible prizes which have been donated by some very worthy donors. The family have also set up a link to a donor page at the Child Organ Transplant Association, and I will post that link at the very end. The cost to keep this 3-year-old alive is over $300,000 and insurance will pay for less than half. The family have spent their life savings to keep Harrison alive and now need your help. It’s not very often, if ever, that I will write a blog asking my readership for their help, but I feel deeply for the plight of a child I have grown to adore. If you have any questions or comments, or you would like to purchase a golden pin, please feel free to leave a comment on this blog and I will do my best to assist. Thanks for reading and thanks again for your support. Everyone involved appreciates it!


Help Harrison Pin-2



downloadHillary Clinton, cheater. Tom Brady, cheater. Bill Clinton, cheater. Lance Armstrong, cheater. Ben Johnson, cheater. Halliburton, cheaters. Enron, cheaters. President Nixon, cheater. The list goes on and on and on, but yet some of the list of notables listed above are to this day, revered and loved, even by those self doubters who would prefer to look the other way while controversy rages. Look at Hillary, running for the highest office in the land, if not the planet, and look at the ‘crooked’ influence surrounding her life. Look at Brady, guilty as heck and now allowed to continue in his profession with a clean slate and vindication from those who should really have no say in the matter.

Life today is ridiculous. If you have the money, if you have the connections, and of course, if you have the money and wherewithal to apologize and look remorseful in public, you are set free with all the kudos that the world can throw at you, while everyone around you just accepts that you did it and it no longer matters.

Well of course it matters! Why are we, the public, so gullible? Why do we just accept that these people are world-renowned personalities and because of that they should be treated differently? Why do we all jump on the forgiveness bandwagon when really we should clear to all those who have cheated that enough is enough and if you want to bend the rules, go do it somewhere else. Ashley Madison for example. What a joke that is. 30 million men and about 12,000 women. All for what? And not the 30 million are running around like headless chickens trying to apologize for their sins when really all they’ve been doing is chatting to computer generated ghosts. Its pathetic.

Hillary, you want to be president, but how can anyone in this country trust a person who deleted over 10,000 emails, some of which we classified, just because you felt like it? And then you have the audacity to publicly state that nothing you did was wrong and that none of the emails carried any importance to national security. Do you think we all came up the river in a banana boat? In other words, do you think we are all stupid? You obviously do and most of your supporters obviously are! And Tom, you deflated all those balls and the fans in NE, those who are blinkered, still trust you and pay your wages every week? Come on people, get real. Let’s all move on from this star struck life we seem to live and call these cheaters out for what they really are. Let’s not give them the time of day. I’m sure that any of you out there reading this who try to hold down regular jobs working for regular companies or those of you who are regular athletes trying to achieve moderate success at a moderate level and decided to cheat,  you’d be fired on the spot, no questions asked, no court hearings, no pay and no more respect.

This nation we call America was supposedly built on trust. Whether that’s true or not is hard to tell because none of us was around to see it happen. But look at what we’ve become. A nation filled with greed and a nation topped up with disingenuous moronic behavior by people that we all want to look up to. No wonder the country is going to the dogs, and no wonder those who have so little will never every get too much.

I’ll end with a joke, because that’s what all these cheaters are. I give them no respect and I certainly won’t be voting for Hillary or watching any games that Tom Brady plays in.

A woman was in bed having sex with her husband’s friend when the telephone rang.

After hanging up, she says, ”That was Harry, but don’t worry — he won’t be home for a while. He’s playing cards with you.”

Why Is It So Hard To Say Goodbye?

IMG_035240 years I’ve known George. That’s a long time to stay friends with anyone, let alone someone you only met in your late teens. I have friends that I grew up with and still keep in touch with even today and even though 6000 miles separate us, but to meet someone in a different country, befriend them and stay in touch for such a long period of time, well that’s unusual. George lives in China, Hong Kong to be precise and for the past year or so, he’s been fighting lung cancer. He never smoked, rarely drank and did all sorts of things to promote good health and longevity. His mother and father died of lung cancer, and his brother was cured of lung cancer, but George, being the workaholic that he is, never went for regular check ups, never went for blood work and never had the slightest incline that he had tumors until one day, walking up a flight of stairs, the same ones he’d walked up many hundreds of times previously, he was cut down with shortness of breath. A soccer player, and fitness fanatic, George thought he was having some sort of coronary episode, but after a few simple tests, tests he should have taken years ago, the news was brutal and final. And so his battle began. 7 chemo sessions, radiotherapy, drugs et al. Over the past five or so months George has tried them all. They’ve taken 5 liters of fluid from his lungs three times. They have prodded, pulled and pushed his body to its limits. They have given him good news, bad news and more news that’s in between. None of it now matters, because George now lies in the Queen Mary hospital in Aberdeen Hong Kong, gasping for breath as this horrible disease spreads into his other organs. Not the happiest blog I have ever written but one which adequately describes in the briefest of terms how it feels to watch and listen and digest death as it overwhelms ever so slowly, a friend or loved one who you can only remember as being fit and healthy normal human being.

Which brings me to the title of this particular blog. Why is it so hard to say goodbye?

I intend to fly out to visit with George tomorrow, just as I would do with any other of my friends who needed support or encouragement should they ever find themselves in such dire straights. The issue is, what exactly do you say to someone who knows they don’t have long to live and someone who you’ve shared good times and bad times with for so many years? Someone you’ve laughed with, cried with, traveled with and dined with. Do you act like nothing’s going on? Do you bring up the tragedy of it all? Do you ignore their pain and make them feel loved and try to bring them a moment or two of laughter? What I’ve learned in the past when confronted by similar situations is that most of the people I’ve known with a similar plight never actually believe there is anything wrong with them. When quizzed, they all, perhaps through that inevitable fear of death, brush aside any thoughts of demise and insist that recovery is just around that never-ending corner. We could call that optimism or perhaps the last threads of our own being. No matter the situation, when faced with the prospects of confronting a dying friend for the very last time, it’s hard not to bring up the past, bring up the present and not look forwards to a future that you know they will never be a part of.

When I get to HK on Sunday I fully intend to show George this picture, the one above. That was a stellar day not so long ago. A day we spent in Monterey CA together, looking at 17 mile drive, Fisherman’s wharf and then ending up at the BBQ joint in Seaside where they were having a bikini car wash for charity and all the ladies washing cars took and instant fancy to George. That was a fun day and that’s a day never to forget. We all have lots of days like that, but too many of us choose to recall bad times or wallow in the grief that follows the good, hoping perhaps for a little more sympathy or a way to make self-pity our final prayer. No matter what, life is short, and saying goodbye shouldn’t be a chore, after all, it might not be goodbye for too long, none of us rally know. We all hope, but we don’t know.

While writing this, I know George is still alive and fighting. Perhaps it will be weeks, perhaps months or perhaps days, but in the end, George will complete the process which will eventually transform his being into the next world, a world that maybe, just maybe, is better than this one and a world where saying goodbye is only the beginning.


Fireworks Should Be Banned

downloadI’m sitting here in my office at 8.30PM on July 4th and my wee doggie is sitting petrified on my lap. As I look out my window, thousands of people are waiting for the annual fireworks display to begin, a display that will commence in about an hour and a half and will last about 15 minutes. In the meantime, since 7PM last night, July 3rd, and throughout the day today, I have been subjected to sporadic explosions, some small, some large, which have not only scared the heck out of me, but have literally driven my dog to insanity. It’s 86 degrees outside right now, it’s light, and it’s fucking noisy! Why do people insist on doing this? The animals hate it, I hate it, and what purpose does it serve? When did this ‘firework’ tradition begin? In the UK we have ‘Bonfire’ night. On the 5th of November every year, the same day Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament, in 1605 BC, we light bonfires and set off fireworks, none so elaborate as in the USA, but noisy enough and frustrating for not only those who dislike them, but for the poor animals who absolutely despise them. My friend Mary in Portland OR has her 12-year-old dog on puppy tranquilizers, just for today. I must admit, with Lola, my dog, shaking like a leaf as I type this piece, I too am tempted to go to the vet and get him to prescribe the same so that she doesn’t suffer again. Every year it’s the same. 9 PM rolls on in and BANG! Kaboom! Poof! Scared shitless and scared to the point of no return, a state that no animal and no human should have to endure. I know it’s tradition, I know it’s all part of the culture, but for goodness sake, with the drought the way it is, how stupid can anyone be letting off fireworks into an evening where the wind is gusting, then still, the grass and forests are like a tinderbox, just waiting for that one spark so the can erupt in flame, and every single animal, either domesticated or wild, has to suffer the indignity of fear unwillingly bestowed upon them by moronic behavior that goes beyond all common sense.

Fireworks should be banned, banned for good. Put on a light show instead, as they’ve done in some of the worst drought hit areas in CA. That way we will all get peace enjoying a show that will make great viewing, delightful music and keep our wildlife and countryside free from the possibility of yet more death and destruction.

To all my American friends, Happy 4th July. Stay out of trouble and keep smiling. You only became independent because we let you!

What Is Up With Killing Dogs?

I read on the BBC today that in China, Yulin to be precise, there’s the annual dog meat festival taking place right now. This is sick beyond words. Read the article, complain, Facebook it, Tweet it, do whatever you can to stop this barbarism. What is up with China? What is it that these people don’t get? Why is mans best friend now a unhappy meal. It’s ridiculous in this day and age that we allow this to happen, although, as my friend in Portland told me this morning, ‘when you’re hungry…’

This is not hunger though, this is barbarism. A ritual that can be terminated if enough people get together and create a big enough fuss. As I said, get on it, send it to all your friends, and do what you can to stop these people butchering more innocent dogs





Hands Down-India Wins!!!

IMG_0486With three cars surrounding the BMW I was sitting in, one on either side and one in front, we crawled to a halt as a man riding a donkey jumped the central reservation of the two lane highway we were about to enter, getting hit immediately by another on coming vehicle, one that was trying to overtake us on the right hand side, hitting the donkey broadside, throwing its rider ten feet up into the air and then down straight through its windshield, severing his head into two parts. The donkey, oblivious to it’s now decapitated owner, made haste for the other side of the road and safety. The rider, now dead, and brains splattered all over the road, remained in two distinctly separate pieces. My guide turned to me, hands firmly on the steering wheel which he now gripped with some angst, and with a certain casualness and a huge smile, said, “Do not worry, he is dead. Happens all the time here in India. The donkey is safe by the looks of the way he ran away, and that’s a good thing!” Welcome to India!

On the road to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, a new road, built to make the journey from Delhi palatable, (the old road took 5 hours, the new one 2 hours), there were no other cars. Why? Because the road costs $10 to drive and the vast majority of Indians cannot afford to venture out and enjoy it’s three lane British motorway like feel. It was sensational, driving at 80 MPH for 200 kilometers without seeing a single car, not even a cop car. Passing through three toll booths, each one emptier than the other, with toll collectors who just seemed to hang out and chat with one another, surrounded on either side by brick making facilities, yes, building bricks, which created the most vial of smells and pollution that was so bad, blue sky is something not seen in that area since independence in 1948.

IMG_0211Agra wasn’t too far into the distant brown horizon and as suddenly as this new road had begun, it ended, not with a bang, but with a true shock to a system already in turmoil. An Ox, then a few cows and then monkeys, yes monkeys, running wild on roads that were fit for the only vehicles that seemed to fit, tuc-tuc’s. Some single seater, some laden with dirty washing, cow dung patties, or dead animals, such as wild boar, and some overfilled with passengers, normally 6 or more seated in a space suitable for 2. Culture shock would be a mild exaggeration on how I was feeling at the precise moment we crossed a bridge and an Ox ran out in front of our new BMW, which by the way, stuck out like the sore thumb amidst the chaos of poverty we were now driving against.

Destination Taj Mahal. Excitement? Perhaps. Disappointment? Well after parking, meeting my new guide and walking the half mile or so in 112 degrees of heat from the parking lot to the grounds and entrance of the Taj, sweat rolling off my back, each step taken with the deliberate avoidance of feces, from humans and cows and dogs and pigs and monkeys, one could only feel disappointed to be shown round one of the worlds wonders and then stopping to think, “hang on, this is just an empty dome” OK so it was built 360 years ago, some feat, but Jesus Christ walked the planet some 2000 years ago and his miracles seem far greater than this eccentric piece of real estate. The history of the Taj is interesting, but only if you want to hear about an ancient government and king fleecing his own people whilst determined to build a palace and mausoleum for his already dead wife. Oh wait, sounds a lot like today’s politicians! I liked the building, I liked the premiss, but for God’s sake, how can this be a wonder of the world? It’s situated next to the biggest shit hole I have ever seen, yes, greater than any shit hole China has to offer, so my friends, I take you back to the title of this blog, India wins hands down!

India, or at least the parts I saw, is by far the biggest shit hole I have ever had the misfortune to visit. I apologize in advance to all my friends from that country, and all who have to live there. I am sorry that you have to read this and apologize profusely if you are upset by my observations, but the truth is often hard to take, and what I have written above, describing in detail just a minute part of this vast country, is absolutely true and in general, heartbreaking. To witness such poverty first hand, and to have the opportunity to see it again and again over three unbelievable days, just makes me appreciate China even more and for me to appreciate China, you know, if you’d read my previous blog, that India must be really desperate.