Photos courtesy Bob Kimber
Bob Kimber, above left, will race in the 2022 Method Race Wheels “Casey Folks” Vegas to Reno off-road desert race with several goals, among them being to raise funds for Jason Werby, above center, and his family following Werby’s June mountain bike accident. Above right: Kimber races in a previous off-road desert race — something Werby supported him on.
By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer
On Aug. 12, Pagosa Springs resident Bob Kimber will race in the 2022 Method Race Wheels “Casey Folks” Vegas to Reno off-road desert race with several goals: showing people that life can “truly” begin at age 65, being the oldest man to ever finish the race solo and —the catalyst for his taking part — raising money for a Pagosa Springs family facing mounting medical bills.
On June 25, Jason Werby and his family were downhill mountain biking at Purgatory Mountain on his wife, Nadia’s, birthday when he suffered life-changing injuries.
“My husband crashed and was instantly paralyzed from the neck down.”Nadia Werby
“My husband crashed and was instantly paralyzed from the neck down,” Nadia recalled.
Jason was lifted via helicopter to Mercy Regional Medical Center before being flown to St. Anthony’s Hospital in the Denver area.
“He fractured his T3 vertebrae, and had multiple compression areas in his cervical and thoracic spine. He also sustained 8 broken ribs, a brain bleed, a broken nose, and missing teeth,” a GoFundMe page set up for the Werbys describes.
There, Nadia explained, Jason was in the ICU for more than two weeks and underwent two spinal surgeries.
Jason is now at the nonprofit Craig Hospital in Denver for rehabilitation and is working to regain mobility.
At the time the accident happened, Nadia explained, her family was without health insurance and is now facing “massive” medical bills.
The GoFundMe page estimates their medical bills may exceed $1 million.
They also face costs associated with making their house accessible for Jason when he returns to Pagosa Springs, likely in November.
In addition to seeking financial aid to help with the mounting medical bills, the Werbys have also had friends and community members step in to help.
One longtime friend of Nadia’s, Sarah Mack, began a GoFundMe campaign on June 27 with a goal of raising $60,000 for Jason’s medical bills and helped relay information to the family’s friends in the days following his accident.
As of the morning of Aug. 3, the GoFundMe had raised nearly $32,000 from 130 people.
“Nadia’s been my best friend for 25 years,” Sarah said, noting she’s known Jason for about 20 years and adding, “I love the whole family. … They’re just my closest friends.”
Mack noted the family is facing a lot of costs, pointing out they had to make a six-figure down payment for Jason to get into Craig.
Another longtime friend, Bob, is also stepping in to raise funds in a way that also celebrates his friendship with Jason.
Racing for a friend
Since 2016, Bob has taken part in off-road motorsport races in both the U.S. and Mexico, with Jason working as part of Bob’s crew for the Baja race series in Mexico previously.
Bob, now 65, said he began off-road racing after his mom passed away.
“My mom never wanted me to be on motorcycles,” he said, adding that he was 10 years old when he watched his first off-road race. “It was so exciting to watch and just seemed unbelievable to me.”
Bob noted he’d always wanted to do the Baja 1000 peninsula run in Mexico and talked with friends about doing it.
In 2019, he recalled, he turned 62, signed up for early Social Security and went to Mexico.
He ultimately entered into the Iron Man category for Baja 400 — where the race is done solo instead of a typical team of four to eight for the Baja 1000.
“Off I went and I finished second overall,” he said, noting he was surprised he made it.
Since, Bob has completed the Baja race series, including the Baja 1000, both solo and as part of a winning team.
Over the years, Jason supported Bob’s racing, helping him at six of the seven Baja races.
“He was a big part of my team,” Bob said, adding that, without Jason he would have been uncomfortable and lost.
“Jason has been the kind of friend and companion that most men would dream of having…He has never once said no to me or declined to help me in my time of need. And I have asked a lot of him in all the years I’ve known him,” Bob wrote in an email.
Then came Jason’s crash.
Bob wrote in a statement to The SUN, “when all this happened to Jason and Nadia I felt helpless.”
One day, he explains in the statement, he was riding with a mutual friend and told the friend how helpless he felt. That’s when the Vegas to Reno race came to mind.
When he got home, Bob looked into the race and found that it was scheduled for Aug. 12.
“So I thought to myself, I just turned 65, and if I enter and finish the race in the Moto Ironman Pro category, which this year is 495 miles, I would be the oldest man to ever finish it solo,” he wrote.
Bob’s category for the Vegas to Reno race had eight racers as of Tuesday, he relayed, with the average age prior to Bob’s registering being 27. The oldest racer prior to Bob’s registration was 33, and the youngest is 18.
“I don’t want to take my helmet off until after the race,” he said with a chuckle before stating his goal is to finish the race.
“Normally, you would do it with a team, particularly at his age,” Nadia said. “But he’s quite the … accomplished triathlete. So, he decided he would do this as a fundraiser for our family to help raise money to pay for some of the medical bills that we’re looking at, and also we’re going to have to ADA our house.”
Bob hopes that people will give how they can — either before the race, after it or pledging an amount per mile.
He added that pledging an amount per mile would also help encourage him to stay on his bike for the full 495 miles.
Bob also pointed out that, much like Pagosa Springs, the off-road racing community is like a family, with several within that community, also committing to helping.
Nadia noted that the race isn’t where Bob’s help ends, adding that he’s also helped work on her truck.
“He’s just been helping me in every way, and then he decided to do this crazy race,” she said.
“I think he could be an angel or something,” Nadia said of Bob.
She also highlighted the help the family — they have kids aged 9 and 13 — has received from the Pagosa Springs community.
Nadia noted Jason has lived in Pagosa Springs since around 1995, and she moved here in 2000.
“We’ve been a part of the community for a really long time, and they’ve been amazing. I don’t think I could have gone through something like this and not been in a place like Pagosa where everybody has just chipped in and is helping me figure out how to maneuver through this really crazy period in our lives,” Nadia said.
Improving at Craig Hospital
Craig Hospital is, according to its website, “a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital that exclusively specializes in the neurorehabilitation and research of patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) and brain injury (BI).”
Before being transferred to Craig in July, Jason had started being able to move his legs and had limited feeling in his arms, according to the GoFundMe.
Jason moved to Craig in July, and the occasion was marked with a note from Jason shared from the GoFundMe:
“I would like to thank you for the love and support. Today I moved into Craig rehabilitation Hospital, the best rehabilitation facility in America.
“This is day one of my recovery. Knowing the amount of support I’m getting makes me want to give 100% effort towards getting better.
“This place is capable of turning tragedy into miracles. I plan on being a success story. Thank you again for your help. I am going to make every day count.”
Nadia noted Jason will likely be at Craig until November.
“We still don’t know whether or not he will be able to walk or use his hands ever again,” she said.
“This place is capable of turning tragedy into miracles. I plan on being a success story. Thank you again for your help. I am going to make every day count.”Jason Werby
“The latest and greatest,” Nadia said Tuesday, “is that he has been able to move a couple of fingers and he’s starting to get sensations in his arms. Because of his injury, his C3-C4 is where the injury occurred that made him paralyzed, and so when you have a cervical injury, you’re a paraplegic. They didn’t expect that he would walk or use his hands ever again. There were no expectations.”
Now, she reported, he can pedal a bike, pedaling for almost 6 miles recently.
He can stand and walk in a pool with help, and is working on standing and balancing on his own to hold himself straight up, she said.
But, he’s also battling a lot of nerve pain as he heals, she said.
“It’s gonna take at least two years to see the full potential of his recovery, but, I mean, I have a lot of hope,” Nadia said, adding, “He really wants his hands back.”
Bob relayed that he recently spent time with Jason at Craig, “immersing” himself in “Jason’s world there” and indicated his intent to continue to help his friend.
Bob wrote that after the race he “will be returning to Craig to be trained, while he is still inpatient, and I will be there when he transitions to outpatient status.”
“My body has been broken and may not heal. But my spirit can and will transcend my limitations.”Matt Clark
He also pointed out a sign Jason noted has inspired him to not give up. That sign, credited as “The Healer” by Matt Clark, reads: “My body has been broken and may not heal.
“But my spirit can and will transcend my limitations.”
How to follow along and donate
The GoFundMe page benefiting the Werbys is https://www.gofundme.com/f/jason-werby-medical-expenses.
Mack reported she’s also looking into additional fundraising opportunities in the community this fall.
More information on the Vegas to Reno race can be found at https://bitd.com/.