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  • Writer's pictureJim Clarahan

Greece - Home of Gods, Goddesses and Democracy!

Myth or real, from Zeus to Athena, the story of Ancient Greece set the cornerstone for Western Civilization. Sitting tall atop the Acropolis for over 2,000 years (5th century BC to 17th century CE), the Parthenon was the epitome of the prize city of Athens. Today its majestic ruins are still stunning to take in and provide a stark reminder that all existence here on Earth is temporal. So go for the gusto and make your life count!

Before arriving in Greece, I had the thrill of a lifetime riding the Albanian coastline, one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world. Starting in Tirana, Albania, on an early morning ride through the country to the coastal city of Vlorë, then south to Sarandë, before heading southeast to Ioannina, Greece, just beating the rain. A beautiful day covering 250+ miles thru mountain passes with stunning views, countless hairpin turns and an encounter with a few stray cows. The following pics & vids give a glimpse of the exhilaration experienced from the seat of my bike.

Ioannina, Greece. Arriving just before the RAIN came pouring down. Ioannina's rich history dating back thousands of years to 6th century as a critical city during Byzantine Empire then the Ottoman Empire until 1913. Today it is a beautiful mix of old and new, and definitely worth a repeat visit to travel around its namesake lake and soaking in the local culture.

The beautiful seaside town of Nafpaktos, located on the north shore of the Gulf of Corinth, was the perfect lunch stop on the road to Athens. The strange looks from the locals as I parked my Harley in between the Vespas brought a smile to my helmet covered face. And it gets "warm" under the Greek sun...

How do I give a proper THANK YOU to my friends and colleagues at RSM Greece? The welcome gift packed with local treats and goodies, and the "light" dinner with Athos and Theoni, was just the start to four memorable days in Athens. (Later I learned that Athos' goal was to add 2 - 4 KG to my weight while in Athens...he almost succeeded.) Co-managing partners: Elena Stylianou and Vasilis Petinis, had the team and the week organized for flawless execution of every event. And I cannot pass up giving special thanks to Theoni, Maryna, and Natalia. Each playing a crucial role. (p.s. Maryna makes the best fresh squeezed homemade lemonade, bar none!)

The RSM Greece team was and is amazing. The beautiful smiles in these pictures say it all. The entire team came together to create special gifts for the two NGO's we met on the following day: ELPIDA and FLOGA. The support and generosity of clients and friends of RSM Greece was humbling. Extra special "thank you" to each of the following organizations that contributed to ELPIDA or FLOGA on behalf of the Ride 4 Dray.

  • Bausch Health Hellas

  • Genesis Pharma

  • Varangis Furniture & Interiors

  • Όμιλος FOURLIS

  • Τράπεζα Eurobank

  • Evalion

  • Yodiwo

  • Όμιλος Εταιρειών DELATOLAS

  • RSM Greece

  • Several individuals

The first special meeting was with Dr. Ioannis Kotosiopoulous, General Secretary of Greece's Ministry of Health. I was taken aback by the fact that he had thoroughly studied my website, Dray's story and his condition. We talked about Dray, childhood cancer treatments and protocols in Greece, and the need to improve awareness throughout the medical community. He also shared the fact that Greece has initiated a national registry of data for all children with cancer. A small step on the way to helping doctors diagnose and treat children more effectively.

The next morning was full of adventure. Picking up my bike from H-D Athena, witnessing a gypsy family serving bottled water to the children caged in the back of the pickup truck, safely riding through Athens to meet with RSM Greece team somewhere near the hospital, and the fun lunch we had nearby. Whew! None of this prepared me for the outpouring of love and appreciation I received from ELPIDA and FLOGA.

The morning meeting with "ELPIDA - Association of Friends of Children with Cancer”, located at the Aghia Sopfia Children’s Hospital. ELPIDA is the cornerstone to Greece's first pediatric oncology center in 2007, thanks to the vision, leadership and drive of Marianna V. Vardinoyannis. Georgina Ellina, General Secretary of the Board of Directors of ELPIDA, and Manolis Papasavas, CEO of the hospital gave short presentations about their missions, programs and areas of focus. Several esteemed doctors and other healthcare professionals attended to hear my story and recognize the Ride 4 Dray with a commemorative plaque. Attendees included: Dr Antonis Kattamis, Professor of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, Head, Division Of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, First Department Of Pediatrics, National And Kapodistrian University Of Athens, 'Aghia Sophia' Children's Hospital; Dr. Theodora Psaltopoulou, member of the board of ELPIDA- Association of Friends of Children with cancer; Mrs. Ketty Phlippidou, member of the Advisory Committee of the Board of “ELPIDA- Association of Friends of Children with cancer”; Mrs Rita Pikrou – Moraitaki, member of the Advisory Committee of the Board of “ELPIDA- Association of Friends of Children with cancer”; Dr. Stelios Graphakos, medical director of Bone Marrow Donor Center “ORAMA ELPIDAS”; Mrs Zeta Antsakli, member of the Advisory Committee of the Board of “ELPIDA- Association of Friends of Children with cancer” ; Mrs Alexia Antsakli – Vardinoyannis, member of the Advisory Committee of the Board of “ELPIDA- Association of Friends of Children with cancer” and member of ELPIDA YOUTH Committee; and, last but not least, Mrs Alexandra Papasaradopoulou, Head nurse of the Children’s Oncology Unit “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis- ELPIDA”

And then after a restful lunch we met with FLOGA (the "flame") - Parents' Association of Children with Cancer, celebrating its 40-year anniversary. FLOGA focuses on providing temporary housing and support for the children and families being treated for cancer. I am not sure who was happier, the children or me, when we lined up to take the picture with the flag. Each child was given a Ride 4 Dray Challenge Coin and St Jude Angel pin as a reminder there are many people who care for them and to give them healing hope. Floga was represented by Ms Georgia Kokkinou, Vice President of the BoD. Unfortunately Ms Maria Tryfonidi, president of the BoD, was attending another event in Thesoliniki and could not attend. Otherwise the full house included family members and children undergoing treatment, and several clients and friends of RSM Greece.

My final two days in Athens was a mixture of sightseeing and saying farewell to my friends and colleagues at RSM Greece. I took the overnight ferry from the Port of Pireaus to Chios.

An EXTRA SPECIAL SURPRISE from my great friend Athos, was the captain's invitation to the bridge, flying my flag atop, and helping steer the ship as we left Athens. A THRILLING lifetime experience.

A full moon brightened the night sky as Athens waned on the horizon. Arriving in Chios eight hours later @4am, the wait for sunrise and boarding the ferry for Cesme, Turkiye, was interrupted by a bar fight at a local disco that spilled into the parking lot. Chios' finest were quickly on the scene to clear up the mess. Then onto Cesme and a toe tip into the Asian side of Turkiye (next blog coming soon).

Today's blog update is being published from Poznan, Poland on Day 92 of 125. More than 2/3's of the way, I can almost taste the first sip of Guinness with my friends in Dublin. Ride stats as of today:

  • >15,600KM

  • 39 cities, Madrid > Poznan

  • 27 countries

  • 34 RSM office stops

  • 13 kids' cancer organizations, 12 active collaborators

  • 4 oncology department tours

  • 1 government meeting

  • >40,000 Euros donated locally throughout Europe

My Heroes from Athens are modern day Gods and Goddesses. Too numerous to mention each name, so I will just say thank you one last time - THANK YOU RSM GREECE!!!!!

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