Overland Park & Leawood

Grandfather to carry autism awareness to new lengths

Updated: 2013-12-31T19:25:37Z

By SARA BEANE

Special to The Star

Overland Park resident Dale Points has always been adventurous and an avid bike rider. He has biked across Alaska and hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But at age 69, Points is gearing up for the adventure of his life.

On Sunday, he will embark on a three-month, cross-country bike ride from St. Augustine, Fla., to San Diego. The ride is not just a test of his endurance, but an expression of love for his grandson.

As Points pedals across the United States, he hopes to raise awareness for autism. The bike ride is a tribute to his 10-year-old grandson Brandon of New Jersey, who has autism.

“Our heart has ached for the challenges families face for children that are on the spectrum,” Points said. We thought we could do the ride in Brandon’s honor and bring extra awareness to autism.”

Points will hop aboard his recumbent bicycle, a bike that sits low to the ground and has a reclining seat for extra back support, and travel the country with his wife, Annie Laurie, following behind him in a truck. She’ll haul a small trailer where the two will sleep.

As Points travels the country, he plans on visiting autism centers along the way. Before leaving on his trip, Points made a visit to the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training at the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park. Sean Swindler, the center’s director of community development and evaluation, praises Points’ efforts to raise autism awareness.

“It is incredibly important to highlight the needs of families that have children with autism,” Swindler said. “And make people aware that these are your neighbors, friends and relatives and this awareness is really important.”

Points’ route will take him through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arizona before ending up in San Diego. He plans on riding 50 miles a day, six days a week. He’ll take one day off a week for rest and sightseeing with his wife.

Points, who has a stent in his heart, will wear a heart monitor while he rides. That heart problem coupled with diabetes has caused some of his family members to show a little concern for his ambitious plan.

“Some members of the family are cautiously enthusiastic,” Points said. “But we both feel that this is an adventure we are doing together and we are very comfortable with it.”

One family member who is expressing his gratitude for the journey is his son-in-law and Brandon’s father, Keith Taylor.

“I was just honored that he would take on such a big task and assume the out-of-pocket costs associated with loading up his bike and taking it to Florida,” Taylor said. “It’s a big deal and I am extremely honored that he would do it for raising awareness about autism and honoring my son in that way.”

Points isn’t planning on raising any funds for autism as he bikes across the U.S., merely awareness. He’ll display a banner on his bike as he travels across the country. He’s even financing the costs of the 3,000-mile trip himself.

“We are self-funding this excursion, and we will be self-contained,” Points said. “It’s just a little adventure for us.”

Points plans on returning to Kansas City by the first of April. And while his bike trip won’t take him through New Jersey where his grandson Brandon lives, he will be keeping him close to his heart along the way.

“He is just a super neat and very smart guy.”

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