Jacob Landis, 24, rode down U.S. 27 through Polk and Highlands counties recently on his way to Miami and Marlin Park, finishing a bicycle odyssey he began in 2013 that he was forced to suspend near Frostproof last year.
Landis began to lose his hearing when he was 2 years old. To this day, doctors have no idea what went wrong.
By kindergarten, he was fitted for a hearing aid, his father, Randy Landis, said. By fourth grade, the aids no longer helped his son. Things came to a head one evening, Randy Landis added, “when Jacob burst into tears when he saw his sister and brother running to answer the phone and realized he could no longer hear it ring.”
In 1999, when he was 10, Landis’ parents managed to provide him with a cochlear implant — which typically costs between $70,000 and $100,000. It took sacrifice from his parents, Landis said, something he keeps in mind.
Fourteen years later, Landis decided to take a long bike ride to raise money so other individuals with hearing loss, but without the financial means, can get cochlear implants. His goal is to raise enough money to pay for 100 cochlear implants.
So, in 2013 he mounted his bike and set off on an odyssey to raise money. A lover of baseball, Landis organized his bike ride by visiting the country’s 30 major league ball parks. For six months, starting on April 3, he rode from state to state with his cousin alongside in a chase van.
He had successfully visited 29 ball parks, and was on his last lap to Miami and Marlins Park, when on Sept. 22 he was clipped by a semi — whose driver never stopped — on U.S. 27 near Frostproof after bicycling more than 10,000 miles. Landis sustained a concussion, broken nose and cheek as well as severe road rash.
While the injuries were not life-threatening, he was unable to finish his ride.
Which is why he was out on U.S. 27 one year later — with a sheriff’s office escort and his father driving alongside — determined to accomplish his mission. He called the four-day event, May 28-31, “Jacob’s Ride 180,” representing the miles he had to cover between Frostproof and the south Florida baseball stadium.
Overall, his trip raised around $170,000.
“He’s changed lives,” Randy Landis said. “He’s shown that even if you are hearing impaired you don’t have to feel limited. You should go for your dreams.”
For more about Jacob Landis, cochlear implants or to make a donation go to www.JacobsRide.com.