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Miles for Myles
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Reporter

Upper Perk native, a cancer survivor, rides cross country to raise money for family member

Minner's trip is just short of 2,000 miles.  It will take him across seven states.  He plans to complete about 60 miles per day for the first two weeks, to be followed by four weeks of anywhere from 45-55 miles daily until he reaches his Upper Hanover Township destination.        

        Blasted by torrential rain and 20 mph winds, Robert Minner said the first few days of his cross-country bike trip were a "little challenging."  But he isn't complaining.  Minner has his eyes on the prize – raising sorely needed funds for his great-nephew, Myles Hess. 

        Myles was born 10 weeks premature at a little over 2 pounds.  He had only one lung, his right bronchus was attached to his esophagus instead of his trachea, and he had several inguinal hernias, where his tissue was protruding through his abdominal wall.  His heart is also on the right side of his body instead of the left, a condition called dextrocardia.

        In short, the odds were stacked against him.  But Myles made it through multiple surgeries and spent seven months in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

        "He is considered a miracle baby," 66-year-old Minner said.  "The doctors call him a warrior.  They didn't expect him to survive."

        Today, while his family is ecstatic to have him home, he remains on a ventilator and feeding tube, largely confined to one room of the house.  He requires 16 hours a day of nursing care.  And the past year of medical expenses has been stacking up for his parents, Chris and Krystle Hess of Boyertown.

        So Minner, who grew up in Chapel, Hereford Township, decided to devise a plan to help. 

        He said he always wanted to bike from the West Coast to the East Coast.  So he modified his plan to trek from his home, in Greeley, Colorado, to St. Philip Neri Church, in Upper Hanover Township, to fundraise for Myles.

        Minner, one of eight children, attended St. Philip Neri Catholic School through eighth grade and then transferred to Upper Perkiomen High School, where he graduated in 1967. 

        The trip is just short of 2,000 miles.  It will take him from high elevations to plains to rolling hills and mountains.  He plans on completing about 60 miles per day for the first two weeks, to be followed by four weeks of anywhere from 45-55 miles daily until he reaches his destination.       

        "I've always liked a challenge," he said.  "When I realized their medical expenses I asked, 'What can I do to help?'" 

        Minner, for all intents and purposes, could be taking it easy this summer.  In 2012 what started as severe chest pain led to a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma in his bone marrow.  He underwent surgery, a stem cell transplant and a year of chemotherapy.  It was a rough road for the active Air Force veteran.

        His type of cancer isn't curable, but Minner said he is in partial remission.  He still takes medication daily to manage the disease.

        His doctor medically cleared him for the trip.

        "He thinks I'm a little crazy at my age to want to do this though," Minner said with a laugh.

        But he insists Myles is the real fighter.

        "This is really about him.  Cancer grounds you," he said, noting heart disease, not cancer, runs in his family.  "A lot of people helped me get through it and you want to pay it forward. I said 'I'm better now, so how can I help?'"

        Minner started his journey on Memorial Day.  He has a team of family and friends riding behind him in a vehicle which holds supplies and spare equipment for each leg.  He said two different people will be making the trip with him each week.  

        "I am blessed to have a support team to help me with this," he said.

        He traveled from Greeley, in northeastern Colorado, to Nebraska, where he was biking along Route 92 east on Tuesday.  From there he will travel into Iowa.

        "I'm feeling pretty good.  I'm confident I'll be able to accomplish this thing," he noted.

        He plans to ride onto the grounds of St. Philip Neri on July 4 at 1 p.m.  There he will get to meet Myles for the first time in person. 

        And how will it feel to see little Myles after all those miles?

        "I'm sure it'll be very emotional.  I feel like just holding that little guy and giving him a hug. I'll probably tear up a bit," Minner said. 

        "Thinking about him crossing the finish line and handing off Myles to him, it's very emotional," said Krystle Hess. "There's definitely going to be some tears."

        To help support Minner and the Hess family, visit the fundraising page, titled Miles for Myles, where Rob has set a goal of raising $50,000.  So far about $2,000 has been raised.  He is also posting updates almost daily on a Facebook page, Robert Minner (, along with photos of his progress.      





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