Meet Brett and Juanita Nirider: the glue that keeps the Banana Slugs together
You could say that cycling is in Brett Nirider’s blood. Many events in his life have a connection (big or small) to bike riding. In fact, he celebrates every birthday by riding one mile for every year he’s been alive.
“I love to ride my bike,” Brett says. “It's been a significant part of my life ever since I was a kid. It always represented freedom to me and exploration and getting out and seeing things that I wouldn't otherwise see.”
Many milestones have occurred for Brett on two wheels. He decided on his career path while cycling and even proposed to his wife, Juanita, on an epic, 7,000-mile bike ride.
“I rode from California up the coast through the mountain states and across the plains,” Brett says. “I met Juanita, and we rode around the great lakes and up to New England and then finished in Connecticut.”
The couple met as classmates in a physical therapy program at the University of Kansas. They interned at the same organization in California, then started dating after a year of working together. In 1986, they moved to Washington state, began working as physical therapists at Mary Bridge Good Samaritan Children’s Therapy Unit (CTU), and the rest is history.
For years, they heard about Mary Bridge Children’s Courage -- a weekend cycling adventure that benefits programs and services at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. It was the perfect opportunity to combine the things they love: caring for kids, cycling and their CTU colleagues.
In 2019, Brett decided to captain a team of coworkers from the CTU and Mary Bridge Children’ which eventually became the Banana Slugs. They worked together, trained together and raised nearly $6,000 to support the children that they care for every day with nothing but smiles on their faces and road beneath their tires.
“We work with kids, so we have to be fun,” Juanita says. “If you don’t make therapy appointments fun, kids won't give you anything.”
The “slugs” carried that mindset into their Courage experience by making up theme songs and constantly cheering their teammates on.
Like any great team captain, Brett just wants his teammates to have a good time and keep the cause at the forefront.
“I love to take those feelings of liberation and empowerment with me when I ride Courage, because that’s what I try to help the kids I serve discover about themselves -- liberation and empowerment,” Brett says. “To do so with people I love and for such a good cause is a wonderful blessing!”