Even a pandemic cannot brake this partnership

Envision Unlimited’s collaboration with Pi Kappa Phi’s The Ability Experience has spawned another partnership; this one, between fraternity member Tim Smith and Envision member Matthew M. In 2018, Tim, who also is the CME Group’s chief corporate counsel, joined our Westtown Center’s Buddy Biking program as a community volunteer. Program volunteers pilot tandem bikes on the 606 Trail; our members ride the stoker seats.

I love biking and my family is passionate about inclusion. Buddy Biking is a combination of these two passions and the perfect way for me to give back to my community,” said Tim.

Matthew, who had never ridden a bike, quickly became Tim’s regular riding partner. In 2019, the pair completed the city of Chicago's popular 30-mile Bike the Drive. Tim’s son, Cooper, rode alongside them as their “escort,” a practice we instituted to create protective space around each of our tandems on crowded Lake Shore Drive.

Concerned that Matthew might be running out of steam as they approached the last five miles, Tim asked if he wanted to keep going. Without hesitating, Matthew said, “Yes!”

“I was really impressed with Matthew’s effort,” Tim recalls. “Our longest training ride had only been about five miles!”

Since partnering on the 606 Trail two years ago, Tim has nurtured a relationship with his biking partner. Despite his demanding work and family obligations, Tim finds time to check in with Matthew by phone.

Matthew says he enjoys and appreciates the calls with his biking buddy. “I look up to him!” he says with pride.

Despite COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of this year's Bike the Drive event, Tim and Matthew have made a commitment to keep moving. The buddies recently reunited at Westtown Center, masked and physically distanced, for a spin cycle class. The following week they started working on Matthew’s skills so he can soon ride solo, since it is unknown when tandem riding will be safe again.

They also have pledged to support our Bike the Drive alternative fundraiser, “InMotion for Envision.” Matthew’s personal fitness goal is to exercise Monday through Friday in his backyard. Meanwhile, Tim is on a 3,725-mile virtual ride across the country to spread a message of empathy and acceptance, and to raise funds for organizations that support people with disabilities.

“Envision Unlimited is a central part of that,” says Tim. He has set an “InMotion for Envision” goal to cycle 1,000 miles during August, the final leg of his journey.