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Ride for Life

A child’s battle with cancer inspires a grandfather to hit the open road

Jim Clarahan has two passions: Harley-Davidson motorcycles and his 3-year-old grandson, Dray.

Last summer, he logged 11,232 miles on his bike, spending two months traveling the eastern half of the United States.

All of it was to help his grandson.

A man reading with a little boy
Jim Clarahan shares a quiet moment reading with his 3-year-old grandson, Dray.

As a baby, Dray was diagnosed with lipodystrophy, a rare condition that prevents the body from maintaining healthy fat tissue. Unable to determine the underlying cause, his family sought help from Mayo Clinic.

The team assigned to Dray’s case included endocrinologist Dr. Vinaya Simha, who studied with the world’s leading lipodystrophy expert, Dr. Abhimanyu Garg, Chief of the Division of Nutrition and Metabolic Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

When Dr. Simha saw Dray’s skeletal frame, he immediately thought of Dr. Garg’s research linking lipodystrophy with brain cancer. An MRI revealed a golf ball-sized tumor.

The experience inspired Mr. Clarahan. Last August, he fired up his Harley and departed Peoria, Illinois, on a “Ride 4 Dray” – a 34-state road trip to raise awareness and support for pediatric cancer.

A man standing behind his motorcycle holding a banner in front of the Mississippi River
Mr. Clarahan holds a banner commemorating the Ride 4 Dray as he stands by his motorcycle along the banks of the Mississippi River outside Dubuque, Iowa.

In Dallas, he stopped to thank Dr. Garg for his groundbreaking work and drop off a $30,000 donation.

“A gift like Mr. Clarahan’s helps keep our position as the leading center in the world where all kinds of patients come to learn what can be done for this rare condition,” said Dr. Garg.

Two men wearing masks on the UT Southwestern campus
Mr. Clarahan, right, poses for a photo with UT Southwestern lipodystrophy expert Dr. Abhimanyu Garg in Dallas.
A man wearing a black motorcycle helmet and glasses stands in front of his motorcycle on the UT Southwestern campus
Mr. Clarahan takes a selfie with his motorcycle on the campus of UT Southwestern.

Dray completed 60 weeks of chemotherapy in December and, according to his grandfather, his “fun personality is shining through.” So far, the tumor has not responded to treatment. Dray is now participating in a new clinical trial and will receive chemotherapy twice a day for the next two years.

Determined as ever, Mr. Clarahan is planning another ride. Next summer he’s headed to the West Coast.

It’s a chance to redouble his efforts to support pediatric cancer research and Dr. Garg’s lipodystrophy work, he said. 

“My commitment to UT Southwestern is stronger than ever.”

Dr. Garg, also a Professor of Internal Medicine, holds the Distinguished Chair in Human Nutrition Research.

Group of supporters stand behind a motorcycle in Times Square
Jim Clarahan stops for a photo with supporters in New York City’s iconic Times Square.
An image of the U.S. map with Jim Clarahan's route outlined: 11, 232 miles
60 days, Aug.2 - Sept. 30, 2020, 11 children's hospitals, 34 states visited