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Biking 1,300 miles, coach raises $15,000 for cancer research

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

After pedaling for close to 1,300 miles to get to Georgetown, the last thing James Brown expected to see were the police. He was even more surprised to discover they were there to escort him for the home stretch of his bike trek in honor of former student Ashley Gaines, as he made his way up Highway 17 to greet friends and well-wishers at Carolina Wings in Litchfield.

“I had no idea why the police were there,” Brown said. “For a minute I thought they were going to arrest me.”

The police escort was arranged by Ashley’s parents, David and Melanie. Brown, a teacher and coach at Waccamaw High, was riding on behalf of the Ashley G Foundation. Estimates were that he raised between $14,000 and $15,000 to fund research and to assist patients suffering from lymphoma. Ashley died in 2008 after a 14-month battle with diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

“What James has done is just awesome,” Melanie Gaines said. “It’s hard to believe someone would do all of this for our daughter.”

“Ashley would say he was crazy,” David Gaines said. “But she would be very proud of him. We all are.”

Brown’s journey took him from Waco, Texas, back to the South Carolina coast. He pedaled across parts of six states, traveling roughly 1,302 miles over a span of 20 days.

The stop in Litchfield was brief, as a bigger reception awaited Brown once he returned to his home Surfside Beach. The relatively short stay at Carolina Wings did nothing though to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd, which included current and former students, fellow teachers, parents and members of the Gaines family.

“Once coach Brown puts his mind to something, he’s going to get it done,” said former WHS tennis standout Allison Stanford. “I know Ashley loved what he did. She’s looking down and smiling and is so happy to see all the support he’s received.”

Even those former students who couldn’t be at Carolina Wings in person made sure they were represented.

“My daughter [Jessica] wanted to come, but couldn’t get away from work,” Sue Tiller said. “She loved coach Brown when she was in school and wanted to make sure I would be here. I think everyone is so inspired by what coach Brown has done. It’s what teachers and coaches are supposed to do. They encourage their students to become better people.”

“Coach Brown has always been a role model for me,” said Wes Moran, a tennis All-American at Waccamaw and a current player at Clemson. “He didn’t just talk about doing something for a great cause, he went out and accomplished his goal.”

Sitting at a table at Carolina Wings, the 51-year-old Brown looked none the worse for wear as he prepared for the trip to Surfside and the conclusion of his journey.

“He was unbelievable,” said Brown’s wife, Sonja. “I had questions about whether he could average [more than] 60 miles per day, but he got stronger as we went along. He never wanted to get off the bike. Even on the rest days we had scheduled, he was ready to get back out there and get going again.”

“I feel good,” Brown said. “I had been planning a ride like this for a while and this trip surpassed all expectations. It couldn’t have gone any better.”

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Brown said he is planning some other rides in the future, but he had a simpler endeavor in mind for Tuesday night.

“Once everyone leaves, I’m going straight to my recliner,” he said. “The Gamecocks play at 8.”

Brown no doubt enjoyed the game as South Carolina defeated Florida 5-2 in the College World Series to capture its second consecutive national championship.

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