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Crash ends cross country cycle adventure, sparks help calls

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Debbie Bishop knew the end was near as she pedaled from East Troy, Pa., on Oct. 12. She and husband Tim had ridden 102 days, covering 4,344 miles on a cross country trip that began in Oregon and was destined for the Atlantic Ocean.

A premonition? She says not.

"That Sunday we left a McDonald's and climbed a bit of a hill and it hit me: This trip will be over soon," she remembers.

Minutes later, it was.

Debbie struck a guard rail with her pannier, lost her balance and swerved right to avoid falling to the road. She struck a rock and crashed on her right side.

"She fell in the travel lane," says husband Tim, who rode behind her. "Debbie would get up pretty quickly if this were to happen."

She didn't this time. The reason: Her right elbow crunched as she tried to move it. She had chipped a radius.

Soon, a vehicle slowed and a woman yelled, "Do you need help?" The Bishops nodded, prompting the driver of the vehicle to circle back. Soon, Gary and Amy Martell, of Canton, Pa., were helping the Bishops. They called a friend away from his child's soccer game nearby.

The trio loaded up the Bishops and their cycles. They took Debbie to a local emergency room. They stayed with the couple for the next 2 1/2 hours. They called their pastor, who came to offer prayer and support. The Martells even helped the Bishops make travel arrangements home to Marlborough, Mass., a city 20 miles south of Boston.

"The doctor put the cast on my right arm and said there would be no more biking," Debbie recalls.

The Bishops, both 56, had set out from Oregon on July 3 in hopes of crossing the country to raise awareness and money for The HopeLine, the nonprofit rescue arm of the Dawson McAllister Association. The HopeLine and its Hope Coaches, volunteers like the Bishops, lend ears and compassion to troubled teens and young people who are dealing with a variety of problems, ranging from depression to alcoholism to abuse.

The Bishops give of their time each week in staffing the phone, offering assistance to callers, a number who dial in while having suicidal thoughts.

The couple did much of their work as Hope Coaches on this trip during an extended stay in Sioux City from Aug. 17 through Sept. 1, as Debbie recuperated from a leg injury, originally diagnosed as chronic compartment syndrome.

"While in Sioux City, I took more chats than in any other time on the trip," she says.

"We've not finalized the numbers, but I believe that together we took 30 to 35 chats on the trip, eight of which were suicide preventions," Tim says. "That gives you a feel for just how significant a problem youth suicide has become."

Hope Coaches last year reached an estimated 3,500 young people who had thoughts of suicide.

Following their visit to the hospital, the Bishops walked out and observed the kind of fall foliage they hadn't yet seen along the way. Debbie wasn't only struck by the pain, but by the beauty of her surroundings.

"We would believe that God knew all along that this is how our trip would end," Tim Bishop says. "It didn't end in Sioux City (as was feared). It ended in Pennsylvania."

The Bishops had dinner that evening with their Good Samaritans and explained their HopeLine avocation. The Martells communicated with the Bishops one week later, noting their community in Pennsylvania had been shaken with news of a child in their school district who had committed suicide.

"Not only did God know what our needs were," Tim Bishop concludes, "he also exposed them to the HopeLine and its work."

Debbie Bishop continues to undergo physical therapy on her right arm and elbow. She returns to her job as a literacy interventionist for first-graders this week.

Tim, meantime, maintains the couple cycling blog and runs their publishing company, Open Road Press.

Both plan to continue their efforts with The HopeLine, both in fundraising and in building awareness.

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