Barnabas Center Nassau
September 14, 2021
Liza Cotter and Cherry Gallagher met many years ago while riding on Amelia Island’s miles of bicycle trails. Their friendship was instant. At that time, few women were biking together, so they appreciated the camaraderie. Plus, they were both longtime athletes who had the vital grit and spirit to excel in sports competitions.
Through the years, Liza became more involved in volunteering at Barnabas Center. Currently, she serves on the board of directors, and chairs the board’s development committee and the annual Empty Bowls fundraising event.
“As soon as I visited Barnabas, I fell in love with it,” Liza said. “The professionalism, the crisis services, and the food pantry and medical programs truly impressed me. I knew I had to volunteer.”
As friends oftentimes share stories about their community-based activities, Liza introduced Cherry to Barnabas’ mission to connect people, help and hope in Nassau County. Soon thereafter, Cherry felt compelled to volunteer at the Barnabas Food Pantry and Empty Bowls events.
“Liza is one of those special people who lights up a room as she enters it,” Cherry said. “Her determination, high energy and leadership skills are a tremendous asset to Barnabas. I’ve enjoyed supporting her efforts by volunteering my time and to help Liza in her efforts.”
But, sometimes life gets disrupted and changes our course in a split second. Liza’s admirable traits and skills were tested on a sunny afternoon in March 2021.
Liza was biking with her husband, Terry, on one of the island’s bike paths.
At that same time, 1,800 miles to the west, Cherry was skiing in the Colorado mountains, where she also lives.
“When I got the phone call that Liza was injured in a traumatic bike accident, my heart sank, I could barely speak,” Cherry said.
Liza’s life certainly was disrupted. She sustained serious damage to her lower left leg and was transported by helicopter to a Jacksonville hospital. She has endured several surgeries and fought a serious infection after a bone graft procedure.
“My ongoing recovery is based on my ability to dig deep. I’m very thankful for the tremendous support from family and friends, and the excellent medical care I’ve received,” Liza said. “And, I’ve stayed committed to my work with Barnabas, which has buoyed me and given me pause. I am fortunate to have the resources to help me navigate through surgeries and physical therapy. But, in stark contrast, many individuals in our community do not have help. They may be alone, homeless, hungry, and ill. That’s why it’s critically important for me to keep supporting Barnabas while I heal.”
On a summertime bike ride up the same Colorado mountain, Cherry kept thinking about Liza’s life-changing injury. She knew Liza would someday be back on her bike. But, in the meantime, Cherry wanted to do something special to honor their close friendship.
“I recently decided to compete in the Long Course Aquabike biathlon on September 26 in Stony Point, New York,” Cherry, age 75, said. “It’s a 1.2 mile open-water swim followed by a 56-mile bike that’s age-grouped. I’m in the 75- to 80-year-old age group. It’s a national championship, in which I’ve previously ranked second in a lower age group. So, I like to joke that now I’ll be the youngest in the old lady group and will have a competitive advantage!”
Cherry called Liza to tell her the idea: She would compete in the biathlon in honor of Liza and all donations would go directly to Barnabas.
“Before Cherry finished telling me her idea, I said yes, I was so excited! I was humbled by her generous offer and knew we would raise money for Barnabas,” Liza said.
Today, Cherry is training daily in Colorado to be ready to compete concurrently with Liza continuing her physical therapy on Amelia Island.
“We are asking friends and family and the entire community to support Barnabas by making a donation in honor of Liza,” Cherry said.
“The big picture is that Cherry’s grueling biathlon training and my challenging injury recovery are not about us. This is about Barnabas. This is about helping people in need,” Liza added.
Please join Liza and Cherry in raising funds for Barnabas. Tax-deductible contributions may be made at BarnabasNassau.org or by contacting Tania Yount at [email protected] or (904) 545-0660. Thank you for your financial contribution.