Onyx Storms is on the trip of a lifetime across the United States, powered by bicycle to raise money for a charity that is close to home and heart.
That is not the most unusual scenario. However, in this case, the cross-country journey has a twist: Onyx is a 5-year-oldblack Labrador Retriever cruising America’s highways and byways in a canine bike carrier, towed by his human partner, Ron Storms.
The duo have embarked on the 3,000-mile trek in support of Canine Partners for Life (CPL), a nonprofit that trains and provides service and companion dogs to those in need across Pennsylvania and Delaware.
After four years of planning, training and saving and scrimping (to ensure all contributions will support CPL), Storms and Onyx pushed off from Lincoln City, Oregon on March 9th. After enduring a four-month trip across ten states, they will conclude their adventure in Cochranville, PA, home of Canine Partners for Life’s headquarters.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, Storms spent much time with his aunt Jane, who was intellectually disabled but unable to afford a service dog. Service dogs provide many disabled adults and children with a loving, devoted friend that can help support their development and bring lasting joy.
His aunt’s situation motivated Storms to undertake the ride, where he hopes to raise the $30,0000 required to train one service dog. CPL says it takes three years to acquire, train, feed, foster and prepare a service dog for their job.
Storm is hoping dog lovers across the country will contribute to his ‘paws cause’ as he travels through each state, and he’s challenging each state to raise more than the one preceding it.
After moving to Oregon in 2013, Storms spent time volunteering at the White Wolf Sanctuary, which provides protection and security to Artic wolves. But Storms always had the dream of helping out a cause closer to his heart: service dogs and their partners.
In 2015, he finally settled on just how he could make a difference: he and Onyx would ride 30 miles a day across the country and with a goal of raising $30 from every donor.
With the money he saved up, Storms constructed a “dog house” trailer that’s driven by his girlfriend Meghan Shreiner, providing Ron and Onyx with many comforts of home.
The outside of the red trailer displays wooden paw prints with the names of Ron’s late dogs, predecessors of Onyx. Above them, there is a tribute to his aunt Jane.
Along the way, Storms and his team are relying mostly on donations generated by posts on social media, local news coverage on his visits through towns and word-of-mouth. The team has stayed in hotels, on campgrounds, in parking lots and even their friends’ driveways.
“Our support on the road has been tremendous,” Meghan said. “We have met people who were complete strangers and we now call friends.” Many stop and donate food, money or well wishes. Some of their friends have even joined them for parts of the journey, biking alongside Ron.
Storms noted his that one of his favorite days was during his time in Casper, Wyoming, where he met a previously blind woman who had traveled there from her hometown in Pennsylvania to find a doctor who was able to restore her eyesight. She happily donated to the cause.
Some days are not as pleasant, Storms said. Aside from issues with weather, he has faced many issues with distracted drivers on their cell phones, who have run him off the road.
“Onyx has had it pretty easy,” he said. On most days, Onyx gets to enjoy basking in the sunshine with his tongue out while Storms pedals along. When the road or weather is dicey, he joins Meghan inside and is replaced with a wooden 85-pound “Fonyx” or “Fake Onyx” statue for Storms to pull along.
Onyx’s journey will end at the steps of Canine Partners for Life on July 14th, where the nonprofit plans to host a homecoming party for ‘Team Ronyx,’ donors and dog lovers at 1 p.m. Storms hopes his aunt Jane will be there to greet him upon his finish.
You can help someone gain the gift of independence by donating to CPL in honor of Ron and Onyx here.