Louis Suttmann, a three-year manager of the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team and 2009 UD graduate, has challenged himself to bicycle over 4,000 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in order to raise heart health awareness.
Suttman has been personally affected in many ways by various heart ailments within his close circle of family and friends.
In 1972 his grandfather and namesake, Louis “Frosty” Suttman (UD Class of 1951), was one of the first recipients of an artificial aorta valve due to a heart birth defect. As this was new technology at the time, the valve sadly only lasted six years and Frosty passed away in 1978.
During Suttman’s freshman year at the University of Dayton, the wear and tear of cancer treatment surfaced in his uncle Eric Suttman’s heart. The Dayton graduate - and current faculty member at the University -successfully underwent a quadruple bypass surgery while also receiving an artificial aorta valve.
During that same year, Louis Suttman became an official member of the University of Dayton women’s basketball team. It was then that he first met his mentor, Head Coach Jim Jabir. Suttman admired Coach Jabir’s intensity, dedication, and more importantly, the gigantic heart with which Coach ran his program. Suttman was shocked to find out halfway through his first year with the team that the same wonderful heart that he admired so much, had nearly taken Jabir’s life in 2004. It was then, while coaching his team, that Jabir was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia; a condition through which he has preserved and continues to coach with today.
“Throughout my time with the team, Coach Jabir and I grew especially close and developed a bond that will last a lifetime,” said Suttman.
During his junior year at Dayton, a very special individual walked into Suttman’s life. He had heard about the star recruit that was joining the team that year. He had heard about the immediate impact she would have on the team. No one expected how inspirational Ebony Gainey would be though. The summer before her freshman year at the University of Dayton, Ebony lost her sister to an apparent heart attack while in her sleep. Ebony was forced to deal with the loss of her beloved sister, on top of the typical adjustments any student-athlete must endure going into their freshman year. Just a few short weeks into her promising collegiate career, Ebony was informed that she was at risk for the same heart ailment that her sister had suffered from and would not receive medical clearance to play. In just two months Ebony had lost her sister and the sport she had poured her heart into, basketball. She had every reason to give up. What Suttman watched happen next was life-changing. Through the support of Jabir and the team, Ebony found the courage to remain with the team and stay enrolled at the University.
“The strength she exhibited throughout the remaining two years that I was with the Flyers will forever serve as an inspiration to me,” said Suttman.
Upon his graduation from the University of Dayton, Suttman moved to Salzburg, Austria to work at an international high school as a head basketball coach and assistant athletic director.
On April 4, 2010, while working abroad, Suttman received the tragic news that his uncle, John Knauer, had suddenly passed away from an undiagnosed heart ailment: aortic dissection.
“It is all these individuals who have inspired me to undertake such a lofty challenge for such a worthy cause,” said Suttman.
While he has always been involved in athletics, Suttman had never been very involved in the sport of cycling. That is, until he moved to Austria, where biking is taken almost as serious as their beloved soccer. There he began cycling with his co-worker, Jan Harwood, an Englishman who shares a similar passion for sports and who will also be joining Suttman to bike across America.
The two will depart Seaside, Oregon on June 16 and plan to arrive in New York City on August 22. Their trek will cover more than 4,000 miles, three mountain ranges (Cascade, Rocky, and Appalachian Mountains), and 12 states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York). Suttman has been outfitted by local Dayton bike shop K&G Bike Center (Kettering, OH).
“We are completing the ride as an example and inspiration to others to fully appreciate the importance of maintaining a healthy heart,” said Suttman. “We would like to encourage everyone to become active, eat healthy, and spread the word of heart health.”
They have also started a fundraising campaign to raise money for the American Heart Association. For those who are interested and able, please visit their American Heart Association page at: