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Man with a mission: Double amputee cycles across America to help toddler

A tropical storm wasn’t enough to deter Hector Picard as he set out Saturday on his quest to ride a bike from Miami to the opposite corner of the country, 3,200 miles distant.

Nor was the fact Picard has no arms.

The 47-year-old Fort Lauderdale man was heading out come hell or high water, of which there was plenty after Tropical Storm Andrea drenched the region with heavy rainfall.

No, as Picard said before he set out on his long trek, “riding the bike is going to be easy.” The challenge, he said, will be to raise the additional $27,500 he needs to buy a prosthetic arm for a toddler in Tacoma Wash., at the other end of his route.

“It’s a great story,” Picard said before embarking on his custom-made bike. “It’s an armless guy traveling across the country to help a little boy without arms.”

Picard is making the long ride to raise money for Jameson Davis, a 1-year-old boy who was born without forearms. Picard, who lost his own arms in a 1992 accident while working with electricity, is a motivational speaker and triathlete who heard about the boy from a fellow rider in Washington.

Endurance tests are nothing new for Picard. He has competed in the Ironman, the first double amputee to do so. He rode from Fort Lauderdale to New York last year to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his accident, encountering Tropical Storm Beryl along the way.

When he was considering ideas for a new endurance challenge this year, his wife talked him out of swimming from Cuba to Key West.

He settled instead on a Florida-to-Washington bike run.

“I’m Forrest Gump-ing to Spokane,” he said, referring to the movie character who ran across America.

Picard’s 36-day itinerary will take him through 13 states and include stops ranging from Tupelo, Miss., to Mud Lake, Idaho, and points in between.

“It’s coordinating everything that’s going to be the most difficult thing,” he said.

Picard plans to solicit donations while giving speeches along the way.

Weather and terrain are two of his greatest obstacles, but Picard has been tested by the elements before. He biked 85 miles through Beryl last year.

“It was dangerous and it was scary,” he said. “The rain was hitting me — nailing me. But, at the same time, it was relaxing.”

Picard has also cycled up mountains in the past.

“Actually, I sliced my knee open riding in Colorado a year ago, but it was because I hit a pothole,” he said. “It’s not something I fear. I love the climbing and the downhills.”

Picard will be shadowed during the trip by a support vehicle, which will be driven by Gayle Reed. The Starwood Hotel chain, one of his sponsors, is providing him with lodging during the trip.

If everything goes as planned, his reward will come when he reaches his final destination on July 13 and meets Jameson’s parents. By then, he hopes to have collected enough money to buy the boy his first electronic prosthetic arm, which will cost $32,000. He has already raised $4,500.

“I’ve talked to them on the phone, but I’ve never met them and I want to keep it that way until I get there,” Picard said of the Davises. “That way I think it will lead to a more incredible moment.”

Picard will be wearing a satellite transmitter and he can be tracked online at www.dontstopliving.org.

“This is important,” he said. “It’s a special thing and I’ve got to get this done.”

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