STOCKTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- We're Philly Proud of a man named Will Kleemeier, whose incredible willpower has kept him pedaling across the entire country.
"18 years ago, I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. It's a hidden disease. There's no cure for it," he said. "But when my kidney function really dropped dramatically, I then changed my lifestyle."
Kleemeier was born outside of Reading and now resides in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He picked up cycling, an old hobby that had gotten away from him as his family grew older. Then, the gears started turning on fulfilling a lifelong dream: riding his bike from coast to coast.
"My family said, hey, let's make it a fundraiser and a tool, a vehicle to raise awareness for the disease because so few people actually know about it," he said.
After years of training, Kleemeier and his son, Patrick, drove to Seaside, Oregon. Patrick drove back towards the East Coast at the pace that Will cycled. They spent many nights camping together.
"I averaged 62 miles per day," said Kleemeier. "It took me 56 biking days, but I had two major setbacks.
While leaving Chicago, Kleemeier crashed his bicycle and suffered a broken elbow. In order to heal, he and Patrick returned home for eight weeks. Then, once he recovered, Kleemeier returned to Chicago, this time with his sister at the supporting wheel, to finish the job.
Upon arrival in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Kleemeier endured a week-long bout with COVID-19 and was ready to hit the road one last time. Three days later, he crossed the finish line in Ocean City, New Jersey, and dipped his bicycle wheel in the waters of the opposite ocean from whence he came.
But it wasn't just a sense of relief and pride that he walked away with.
"Many people have never heard of polycystic kidney disease," he said. "And it really gave me an opportunity to go from small town to small town and meet people along the way and let people know about it."
Kleemeier gifted cyan-colored wristbands to strangers sporting the words, "Will Power," and a link to his website to learn more about the cause. He brought some to Bull's Island Recreation Area in Stockton, New Jersey, where he met Action News to share his story.
Fortunately, Kleemeier's PKD is slow-progressing and he has not required dialysis or a transplant. So, he will keep pedaling forward into the future by raising awareness for those who are in more dire need.
"The more awareness, hopefully we can shorten the wait time for people that actually do need a transplant," he said.