Published: Sunday, July 22, 2007
Biking for Bobbi
Gromada will wear a tracking device so people can follow him in real time.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
YOUNGSTOWN Barry Gromada will be pedaling his bicycle, but he said the spirit of his mother-in-law, Roberta "Bobbi" Domer, is the force behind the upcoming "Where is Barry?" American Cancer Society fundraiser.
Gromada is planning to ride around Mahoning County for 24 hours, from 9 a.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday, beginning and ending in downtown Youngstown.
"I'm counting on Bobbi to be the wind at my back when I get tired and want to stop," Gromada said.
Bobbi, the former Roberta Gemma, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 1989 and died July 15, 1989, at age 46. Her youngest daughter, Erin, now Gromada's wife, was just 9 years old at the time.
The Gromadas and the Domers were neighbors on Bristolwood Drive in Boardman when Barry and Erin were growing up.
"I was 16 when Bobbi passed away and I witnessed firsthand how hard is was for Erin and her older siblings without their mother ... and how hard it was for Erin's father, Tim," as he balanced the responsibilities of raising children, work and his home, all alone, while enduring the sadness of losing his wife, Gromada said.
"I have always felt that Bobbi is my guardian angel, even before Erin and I began dating. When I was going through some tough times I got this feeling that Bobbi was present," he said.
"I believe Bobbi wanted Erin and I to share our lives and dreams together and to have children. ... I believe she has guided us in believing that anything is possible. I thank Bobbi every day for giving me my wonderful wife," Gromada said.
Riding for a cause
Barry and Erin have three children: Brandon, 10; Grace, 2; and Leo, 1. Barry is the son of Michael and Carol Gromada of Boardman, and brother of Sheri Schmultz of Boardman.
"This is why I am riding my bike 24 hours for the American Cancer Society. I am riding for Bobbi, who was taken away all too soon ... for my wife, who doesn't go more than a few hours without thinking of her mom, and for all the mothers, sons, wives, brothers, cousins, sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles and friends who have been taken away from their loved ones without an answer," Gromada said.
Gromada's aunt, Diane Smith of Poland, also died of cancer.
Gromada said his ride will target the neighborhoods in Mahoning County and the cemetery where Bobbi is buried.
He said he plans to keep the wheels rolling for 24 hours except for restroom breaks or mechanical problems. He will ride stationary at night downtown in front of 20 West Federal St., the former Phar-Mor Centre, or inside the Channel 33 television facility downtown.
The "Where is Barry" theme for the ride comes from the public's ability to track Gromada during his ride and know whether he is in their neighborhood.
Gromada will wear a portable Global Positioning System tracking device that will send a live feed to the Where is Barry Web site www.whereisbarry.org, where viewers can follow him in real time.
There are two times during the ride when other cyclers are invited to get involved, both in downtown Youngstown. An open adult bike ride/walk-along will be from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday and an open youth bike ride/walk-along will be in the final hour of Gromada's ride, from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday.
Also, there are various ways individuals, organizations and businesses can get involved and pledge money for the fundraiser. Interested people can call Lisa Phillips at (330) 259-7603, or Shannon Ealy or Jennifer Everett at (888) 227-6446 for sponsorship information.
Gromada, a 1991 graduate of Boardman High School and a 1996 graduate of Youngstown State University, said he is both surprised and grateful for the level of support from the community and area businesses.
Gromada said the help of his employer, Turning Technologies, where he has worked in corporate sales since June 2006, and of his fellow employees, one of whom, Lisa Phillips, is chairwoman of the event, has been invaluable.
"Without them, I never would have been able to make this happen," he said.
Tim Domer, Bobbi's husband and Erin's father, said he "can't say enough about my son-in-law and daughter starting this.
"The closer it gets, the more excited I get. I can't thank everybody enough. This is a very supportive community. Something that started out small has become really big," said Domer, division manager for Brentwood Originals in Youngstown.
"Bobbi would have been stunned by it ... overwhelmed. She was a great individual, a mother to the end," Domer said.