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"Bucket List" Adventure to Support Assistive Technology at Craig

September 07, 2021

It’s a bucket list adventure for Michael Durham and his wife, Dr. Jan Durham. The pair are cycling the west coast, from the Canadian border to the border with Mexico—and they’re doing it to raise money to support Craig Hospital.

The couple’s connection to Craig runs deep. Michael’s younger brother, Joseph, sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI) playing high school football in 1972. That experience taught Michael to appreciate the challenges that face individuals with these types of injuries.

In the late 1970s, Michael joined the faculty of the Denver Research Institute at the University of Denver where he worked with an engineer with quadriplegia, Don Rugg. Don and colleague Bill Orr designed a reclining power wheelchair, a device that would become instrumental for the spinal cord injury rehabilitation program at Craig.

“Through Don and his wife Melba, I learned about Craig and their positive experiences with the facility,” says Michael.

Because of that connection, Joseph began visiting Craig periodically for outpatient evaluations, and experience he has dubbed like “Disneyland” because of the specialized knowledge of the Craig staff.

Michael and Jan donated $1 million to Craig’s Redefining ROI Campaign to name the Don and Melba Rugg Assistive Technology Laboratory at Craig. He also joined the Craig Foundation Board, and just completed a six-year term.

“One might think that Craig is the most depressing place in the world, but instead you come through the doors and you feel joy, and see the excitement and passion people have for the place,” he says. “It’s been an amazing experience.”

Not ones to rest, Michael and Jan have adventured throughout the United States and Europe on their bicycles for decades. After their retirement in 2015, they met a man who was riding the Pacific Coast Trail from Canada to Mexico.

“That sounded like so much fun, so we talked about doing it someday,” says Michael.

The time was right this year, so the couple will start their ride in Washington State on September 9. They will travel along the coast. While their distance will vary each day, Michael says they will average 50 miles a day with “no e-bike cheating.” They should complete the ride on the 18th or 19th of October. The couple will chronicle their adventures on a daily trip blog.

They are using this trip to raise money for Craig by challenging donors to support Pedal 4 Possible (P4P), Craig’s charity cycling event on September 18. The couple will match donations to Michael’s event fundraising page, up to $100,000.

“Rather than doing the P4P Century ride, we decided to make up our own version and do 20 P4P Century rides,” he jokes. “We want to take on a challenge that represents the challenges Craig patients face after these life-changing injuries.”

The Durham’s contribution will create the Joseph E. Durham Assistive Technology Fund. This endowment will pay for equipment for use in the Don and Melba Rugg Assistive Technology Lab and will provide assistive technology equipment for current or past Craig Hospital patients who are unable to purchase this equipment on their own due to inadequate insurance or resources.

Joseph wasn’t surprised when he learned that Michael and Jan were establishing a fund in his name.

“Michael and Jan are remarkable people,” he says. “They are knowledgeable and personable and they share the talents and resources they have.”

“You don’t have to wait for them to raise their hands to help out.”

Follow the Adventure on Michael and Jan’s Blog

Donate to Michael’s Pedal 4 Possible Fundraising Page

Update, 11/29/21: Mike and Jan made it to the North San Francisco Bay Area before Jan took a fall and broke her hand and wrist. The couple decided to complete the trip by car and hope to return to complete the California coast ride in the future. With the help of many generous donors, they successfully raised $100,000 for Craig, which they will match. Thank you, Mike and Jan!