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President Bush praised Fred Kelley for his “remarkable” efforts to raise awareness of physical fitness and cancer treatment.
AP photo by Charles Dharapak
President Bush praised Fred Kelley for his “remarkable” efforts to raise awareness of physical fitness and cancer treatment.

Monroeville cyclist meets with Bush

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — Fred Kelley never thought he’d get a private meeting with his congressman, much less President Bush.

But on Tuesday the 50-year-old Monroeville native was in the Oval Office talking with both of them about bicycling, charity and, of course, Alabama.

“We didn’t talk about nuclear disarmament or anything like that. It was just chitchat,” Kelley said. “He just made us feel welcome.”

Kelley started a bicycling fundraiser for the American Cancer Society several years ago after suffering a massive heart attack and being diagnosed with a heart ailment that threatens to cut short his life.

Since then, he has dropped more than 100 pounds and helped raise nearly $350,000 toward finding a cure for cancer.

Knowing that Bush likes to cycle, Kelley asked Rep. Jo Bonner of Mobile if he could somehow arrange for a ride with the president, hoping ultimately to lure Bush to Alabama for the “Peddlin’ for a Cure” event that he founded.

Kelley, Bonner and Sen. Jeff Sessions, also of Mobile, put in requests with the White House. Kelley got a form letter from the administration in September saying the president would have to decline because of a busy schedule.

But a few weeks later — apparently after some persistence from Bonner — Kelley received another letter signed by Bush praising Kelley for his “remarkable” efforts to raise awareness of physical fitness and cancer treatment. Then, last week, Kelley got a call from Bonner asking him if he could fly to Washington on short notice.

He had been invited to visit the White House as part of an occasional series of meetings that Bush holds with volunteers and community leaders.

Kelley, who is marketing director at South Alabama Gas and has a local radio show, met with Bush for about 15 minutes along with Bonner, Kelley’s daughter, Kim, and a White House secretary.

He presented Bush with a key to his hometown, a letter from Mayor Anne Farish and a pound of locally made Monroe Sausage, which he packed in a cooler and which initially raised eyebrows among the president’s Secret Service detail.

Kelley said they discussed cycling and his fundraising event. Bush thanked him for his volunteer work, and Kelley told Bush that people across the country are praying for him.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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