Valley local Theo Williams to ride bike to California for the Aspen Hope Center

Theo Williams is basically committed now. Certainly he wishes he had looked up the mileage beforehand, but he’s ready to start pedaling either way, and for a worthy cause.

“I don’t know how I got to cycling from Aspen to Santa Monica. That’s a pretty long way,” Williams said. “I had no intention of raising money. I just wanted, for my whole mental health, to get away for a little bit.”

What began as a fun getaway has turned into a roughly 1,150-mile bike ride for the Glenwood Springs resident. Williams, 29, will leave Sunday for a planned two-week trek to Santa Monica, the famed beach community in Los Angeles, with the idea of raising money for the Aspen Hope Center.

Like so many, Williams has often struggled to cope with life the past handful of months, from the coronavirus pandemic to the nation’s political and civil unrest. That’s when he started to spend more time outside running and cycling, and from there one thing led to another.

He searched for a cause to attach to his planned trip, and became discouraged when he found the Aspen Hope Center and the numbers it had to share. The area’s high suicide rates, especially among teens, struck a chord with Williams and he decided to put his focus on helping as he could.

“Earlier this year I had a loss in my family and I couldn’t go home and be a part of it. I was just in a pretty crappy place,” Williams said. “I’ve always been around kids and trying to help out. And through browsing the Internet I came across Aspen Hope and what they did for kids and the numbers.”

Williams is a native of England who moved full-time to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2013. He spent about four years with the Roaring Fork Soccer Club and has plenty of experience working with children. He’s now a broker associate for Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate in Aspen, where most of his work is based out of Snowmass Village.

But, beginning Sunday and for the next couple of weeks, he’ll just be some guy pedaling across the Western U.S. on his bike, sleeping on the side of the road and eating whatever he has on him. He plans to make the trek to Santa Monica largely unsupported, sticking to paved roads but avoiding major highways.

And, as physically daunting as the 1,150-mile voyage may seem — where he’ll average about 100 miles per day — Williams is pretty confident he can manage. The longest bike ride he’s previously done was about 900 miles, when he rode from London to Monte Carlo, but that was with a big group of riders who had support vehicles.

This will be a little bit different.

“My legs will hurt, my butt will hurt, but I’m not worried about those things. It’s fine. It really is the two weeks by myself and trying to ride a bike and be mentally occupied,” Williams said. “It’s just hard to be alone by myself and that’s the challenge for me that I’m worried about. I was not in a great place. So if I can be alone with myself for two weeks and feel at the end positive, then for me that’s a huge thing. It’s my own personal battle.”

He picked Santa Monica for his finish line because it’s a name and location Aspenites are certainly familiar with, and he does have a few friends in the area. He plans to drive back to Aspen at the conclusion of his ride.

As for the cause, he casually set a goal of $5,000 hoping to raise at least a little money for the Aspen Hope Center. He launched the GoFundMe page on Friday and about 36 hours later had already met his goal. As of Wednesday evening, he had raised more than $10,000 before even pedaling a mile, and has set a new goal of $20,000.

Williams said he would keep the GoFundMe account open for a week after his ride is complete if anyone else wanted to donate. He said the money will largely go toward putting counselors in schools to help kids who may be going through difficult times.

“I really do believe this can do something good for some people,” Williams said of his bike ride to help support the valley’s mental health issues. “It’s a big problem here. It’s huge. I don’t know if people really know the numbers. People aren’t paying attention to it and we can’t speak about it because it’s not with keeping up with the Joneses. We are supposed to live in a society here that glorifies how much we have and something is happening right under our nose a lot and we aren’t addressing it.”

The GoFundMe link can be found at Williams said those interested can also follow along via his Facebook and through his Instagram (@theowilliams25) accounts.


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