FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A father in Hoke County is getting ready for a bike ride across America, and he's not out to see the country or to satisfy a personal ambition — he’s out to tell a child's story.
"I just cycle about 75 to 100 miles a day," Vander Davis said Tuesday. That comes in addition to his work as a personal trainer at The Sports Center in Fayetteville.
Davis is lean and muscle-tight, a serious cyclist. On the handlebars of his bike, though, there is a tiny plastic chicken with boxing gloves.
"With the boxing gloves on, every time I look down, you know – you fight," Davis said.
That boxing chicken will ride with Davis to a place where palm trees grow in the yards, not Carolina pines. He plans to pedal from Hoke County to Pasadena, Calif., in 30 days.
A 4-year-old boy named Kai, the boy who put the chicken on dad's handlebars.
When Kai was 2½, doctors found a lump in his stomach. He had Stage 4 neuroblastoma, cancer of the nervous system.
"It was pretty devastating. I cried a lot. I called my daddy. He said it was gonna be all right. And Kai, he's helped me, because he faced it like a trouper," Davis said.
After two weeks of chemotherapy at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, Kai is back biking with dad and sister, Jasmine.
And dad has made up his mind.
"When we got a call from the doctors saying the cancer cells had come back in his bone marrow — I've been training and all -- but that's when my mind said, 'I'm going.' People need to hear this story,” Davis explained.
He plans on telling that story by biking across the U.S.A. Davis is trying to get sponsorships for his biking odyssey. His employer and Hawley’s Bicycle World in Fayetteville have pledged their support.
He wants to visit hospitals that treat children with cancer. He wants to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds research on children's cancer.
For fuel, he'll need water, electrolytes and a chicken with boxing gloves.
"I'm sure this ride is gonna be a fight for survival, so that's my inspiration — a fighting chicken," Davis said.
Davis hopes to set off on his journey in late August, after his son undergoes a few more treatments.
Kai’s prognosis is not good. His dad called it “zero.”
“We count the days, count the days,” Davis said. “But he’s still here with us.”