EDWARDS, Colorado - It was the peer pressure that finally got to Michael Warmuth. That and the love.
Warmuth is a longtime veteran of the Eagle River Fire Protection District. He and his wife, Heather, also are the parents of twin girls, Brooke and Abby. The girls are typical 3-year-olds, always eager to go for a bike ride or for Daddy to push them higher on their swings.
But Abby's a little different. She almost always has a pair of plastic tubes in her nose. Those tubes supply oxygen to her almost all the time because she's one of fewer than 200 kids in the world who have been diagnosed with neuroendocrine cell hyperplasia of infancy, a lung disease.
That's how the Warmuths ended up at Children's Hospital in Denver, where Abby was finally diagnosed after a lot of wondering and worrying. Over the past two years or so, the family has spent quite a bit of time at Children's Hospital in Denver. They love everything about the place, from the warm welcome they get at the front door to the care Abby receives to the attention that perfectly healthy Brooke gets from the people who aren't caring for her sister.
It's that love of Children's that has Warmuth and a team from the fire district participating in this year's Courage Classic fundraiser for the hospital. The Courage Classic is a three-day cycling event set for July 21-23 in and around Summit County.
Participating teams all raise money for Children's but set goals beforehand. The fire district's team - Team Abby - has a goal of $1,500 this year.
It's the team name that simultaneously leaves Warmuth slightly embarrassed and proud of the company he keeps.
Co-worker and team leader Tim Swaner suggested the name. Warmuth resisted at first - the team isn't riding just for Abby but for all the other kids who are helped by Children's every day, many of whom aren't able to ride bikes or swing on swings as easily as Abby does.
"I went back and forth about it," Warmuth said about the idea to name the team for his daughter. But when Swaner and district chief and fellow team member Karl Bauer both said, "It's gotta be Team Abby," Warmuth relented.
"I just yielded to the heart behind it," he said.
There's a lot of heart behind Team Abby, and the team's namesake seems to be an inspiration to just about everyone who knows her.
"She deals with it real well," Heather said of Abby. "She hasn't become a 'sick kid,' and her friends and family don't see her that way."
The way Abby and Brooke rocket around the yard at the Warmuths' home, she'd train right alongside her daddy if she could.
She might be able to, someday. No one really knows. Abby's disease has been known to medicine for less than 25 years, so there are still too few people who have lived with it to know just what might happen. She might grow out of the need for full-time oxygen, or she might need it the rest of her life. She struggles a bit to maintain her normal weight but otherwise seems to be fine - except for the plastic tubes running from the nose down the back of her dress to an oxygen bottle or machine.
So the family lives with today's reality - a daughter who needs medicine and oxygen but who refuses to be anything but a regular kid.
And the family has become part of the Children's Hospital family. There's a strong bond there, which is why the Warmuths want to do whatever they can to help.
They asked friends and relatives to donate to Team Abby instead of buying birthday presents this year - although some bought presents and donated, of course. And Team Abby is looking for donations, not for their glory but for the good of a place that helps sick kids get better.
And that seems to be the spirit behind the entire Courage Classic, Warmuth said.
"A lot of fundraisers seem to be more about the people who do it - but Children's has done a great job," he said. "We get to be part of something that's really kept it about the kids."