In 2012, Val and Rick Albee lost their daughter, Mariah, to a drug overdose at the age of 29. In July 2019, Ryan Hickey lost his brother, Joe, when he died as the result of an accident while riding his bicycle. Now these three people are working together to create something truly positive from their grief.
In 2014 Val and Rick Albee started Mariah’s Mission, a component fund of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, to honor their daughter, Mariah. For the past five years, their focus has been on grief support for families who are either struggling with the loss of loved ones or families dealing with a loved one with a substance use disorder.That will always be part of Mariah’s Mission, but Val and Rick have been looking for a way to move forward from the grief and become a positive force in the wellness solution.
In a small, but significant way, Val is already involved in helping with the care plan as she sometimes drives people to medical appointments and meetings. From that experience an idea began to take hold. She realized that transportation is one of the barriers to successful rehabilitation as people suffering from addiction may have lost their driver’s license or can’t afford a car, and most of the recovery houses are not within walking distance of doctors’ offices or meeting locations. A bicycle, she thought, is an inexpensive and healthy mode of transportation.
Her first stop was Easton Cycle and Sport to seek advice from the owner, Ryan Hickey. Val’s new mission spoke to Ryan as he had just lost his brother, Joe, and Joe’s mode of transportation was his bicycle. Val said that after they had a good cry together, they realized it was meant to be. Ryan embraced the project by offering his labor in memory of Joe’s kind spirit and love of biking. Val’s next stop was St. Vincent DePaul Society which offered to make bikes donated to them available to Mariah’s Mission.
The new project is called “Wheels for Change.”The first two bikes, which were purchased, will be given to Healthy Tilghman, allowing a counselor to bike on the island with clients as part of the therapy process. Three bikes are ready to be delivered to Foundations Recovery House, a new facility for women in Easton. Three more bikes will be going to Humble House, also in Easton.Donated bikes will receive an initial clean up by Rick Albee, after which Ryan Hickey will check them over and make any needed repairs. Every bicycle Wheels for Change gives away will come with a brand-new helmet and, hopefully, a lock.
To donate a gently used bicycle, or one needing minor repairs, contact Val at MariahsMission2014@gmail.com or call Mid-Shore Community Foundation at 410-820-8175. Cash donations are also welcome and will be used for helmets, locks, parts, and bicycles. Donations can be made online at MSCF.org or mailed to Mid-Shore Community Foundation, 102 E. Dover St, Easton, MD 21601. Please indicate funds are for Mariah’s Mission/Wheels for Change.