This weekend, Ashley’s family is at Timber Outdoor Music Festival celebrating Ashley’s life, while Greg will ride to Seattle to Portland (205 Miles in 1 Day) to honor Ashley and to raise awareness and money for cancer research. Below is a story of how Ashley and Greg met and their musical connection.
Like my mom, Ashley loved music. Even when her health was at its worse, Ashley always had a ticket for the next show she was going see, always another show. I actually met Ashley on November 22, 2013 at a Melodic Caring Project show featuring Brett Dennen at The Triple Door. Melodic Caring Project streams live music to children who can’t go to see live music because they are battling serious illness. They are called “Rockstars” because of their strength, courage an indomitable spirit. I was working with the project co-founder and artist, Levi Ware and #WeRideWhy Director of Photography and lead editor, Jason Tang that night, hosting the stream along with Levi.
I remember handing Ashley one of the Melodic Caring Project postcards. She looked at it and her eyes lit up. She loved the whole idea of streaming music to kids. That night, Brett Dennon put on an amazing show. He gave a shoutout to every one of those “Rockstars”. After that evening, Ashley and I connected again, talked about the show and the project. She was a music fan and I was a music journalist. We became Facebook friends and would exchange messages. Ashley would watch some of the public MCP streams and really supported Melodic Caring Project.
Little did I know that when I met Ashley that night, she had already been in her battle with cancer. At the time I met Ashley, I had no idea. I started following her posts on Facebook and I saw that Ashley had cancer. I was deeply touched for some reason. I wasn’t sure at the time why, maybe because she was a mother fighting to stay alive for her child and how much she seemed to just love life. I started to think of my own mom. You could say meeting Ashley and hearing her story opened up a space to look at my own mother and the disease that ultimately took her life. I became re-present to who my mother was, her spirit, her love of music, the arts and her passion for life. I came to the revelation that my mom and Ashley not only had a lot in common, they were very much alike. Ashley reminded me so much of my mom when I saw her. It is like somehow they were connected. They would have loved hanging out together and digging on some good music.
“I’m gonna celebrate being alive…”
-Ashley Berg posting on Facebook at the Brett Dennen / MCP show.
I reached out to Ashley to offer support and shared the story about my mother and how much her struggle touched and impacted me. You could say that Ashley was the person inspired me to know my mom again from a different perspective.
When announced that I would be riding Fred Hutch Obliteride for the first time in 2016. Ashley was one of the first to encourage and support my effort and congratulated me. Given that she was battling cancer and had a daughter the same age I was when my mom passed away, I felt a strong connection to Ashley. Sometimes I would see her at shows but I was working so I didn’t get a lot of opportunity to interact with Ashley in person. We would communicate over Facebook. Our friendship took a different turn, when I decided to make her part of a story I was working on for our film, #WeRideWhy. As she shared her stories with me when we spoke and mine with hers, I grew to admire and respect who she was and who she was to her friends and family. I loved my friendship with Ashley and the short time we got to share. More on this later…
Ashley’s passion for music was beautiful. Along with cycling, music is my greatest passion as well. I was a music artist and music journalist for a few years. Music was and is my oxygen. Ashley and I spoke about going to see some shows but we never nailed things down and her health was up and down so when the time was right on my end, it was not on hers. I did get to come hang with Ash at a local establishment, Bastille and her bestie, Tasha Shives before a show in Ballard. I was feeling down and Ashley asked if I wanted to come out and meet her and Tasha. I did. I wish we would have had more of those moments.
When someone is sick and looking at the potential of death right in the eye, it is family, friends, art and music lifts them up. Music was my mom’s happy place and it was Ashley’s. When Ashley was at a concert or listening to music, or at a show, in those moments, she was cancer free because she was free and she is free now.
When Ashley was battling cancer, one of the biggest highlights of the year was the Timber Outdoor Music Festival. She shared it with her daughter Piper every year since the summer of 2013. The last couple of years, her family joined her and Piper at Timber. As you will see in the video below in which the festival’s founder organizer and artist, Kevin Sur, paid a moving tribute to Ashley and her family from the stage. Ashley’s family will be there again this year to honor Ashley and celebrate her life. They and thousands come to bask in the majesty of music, art, activities, community, and God’s glory underneath a beautiful sky in a lovely little place called Carnation, Washington (Man, I love to ride around there)!
Timber Outdoor Music Festival... is not just a music event, it is a life event. It is a celebration of community, music, art, love, and life itself. It is something you share with your family. It is an experience that stays in your heart for the rest of your life… Like Ashley.
#Timberfest you make me so happy every year. I love you
I have a few regrets in my life, one of them is that I didn’t get to share Timber with Ashley. I was there the first couple of years but I was working and there were so many people, I couldn’t seem to find Ashley in the crowd.
When we were in the process of filming, Ashley and I were speaking on the phone and spoke about Timber! She asked if I was going to be going and if we could meet up. I was registered to ride Seattle to Portland that weekend, and would not be able to attend. I promised that I would be thinking of her and we exchanged messages that weekend. While at Timber, Ashley texted me a message to let her know that she was enjoying Timber and thinking of me. This was encouraging and her words were with me as I continued to ride. I was so excited to have completed 205 miles in 1 day, I texted Ashley right away a photo of me holding up my bike after the finish (See Below).
Ashley texted me back, congratulating me. I knew Ashley was sick but I took comfort in knowing that even though Timber Fest 2017, was her last, that she was in her happy place and at peace, surrounded by family, friends, music, and God’s creation. I also take comfort in knowing that Ashley’s family is at Timber! again this year in 2019. Ashley is there too in spirit. She always will be.
As I ride Seattle to Portland again this Timber weekend, Ashley and her family will be in my heart as I ride. For me, Timber and Seattle to Portland will always be connected and a shared experience with Ashley and her family at the center. I will ride hard, with love in my heart. #ForAshley #Sunshinegirl
Below is a bonus content piece we produced to share the story of Ashley’s love for music and her relationship with Timber! The piece includes, shots from Jason Tang and Seattle Music Insider editor, Abby Williamson. Once again, the theme music for the film was produced and performed by our music supervisor, Andrew Joslyn, who will also be performing at Timber! who along with the Passenger String Quartet will be performing with headliner, Mark Lanegan (Kevin Sur and Andrew collaborated on a project and performed at the Fremont Abbey in November of 2018.) The narration of the video is provided by the voice of #WeRideWhy, Grammy Award winner, Michael “Wanz” Wansley (Macklemore).
Spring and summer are filled with life, energy and color. Hope springs eternal, a chance for renewal, even redemption. After spring and summer, The petals fall off the flowers, our lush green leaves turn a beautiful golden brown in September, letting us know that their time to sparkle will soon come end. One by one the leaves lose their color, they wither on the branches and fall to the ground, to become part of the earth or atmosphere…a different shape, a different form.
Winter is darker, the days are shorter, the sunny days fewer. Color turns to monochrome. Grey, lonely days prevail, but comfort, warmth and color are found among friends and loved ones. We are gather around tables to share stories, a drink a meal and love. In November and December we are surrounded by trees with lights or candles other beautiful adornments signifying a certain holy time of year. Winter is a time of reflection. It is a time to look within, to look without and think about those who are in our lives and those who we loved and lost.
After winter, the first blooms start to appear in March and by April and May the leaves and flowers are back, just like we remember, like an old long lost friend who went away on a journey for the winter, only to come back and visit us in the new year. The flowers, the trees, the clouds all look like they did the year before and the year before that but the thing is they are not the same. They are new flowers, new leaves. They look and smell like they always did, but different and the trees and flowers bring us the same joy, a reset and rebirth. The trees, the flowers, the mountains are constantly changing. They will remain, long after we have departed. To me the turning of the seasons represent perpetual change, the circle of life and transformation, “There is no finish line.”
It has been said that to truly heal from the loss of someone that we love, we have to go through all of the seasons without their physical presence – the birthdays, the holidays, the anniversaries, family milestones. I have gone through many seasons after the loss of my mother. The pain and loss will always remain but it does not stop me. It fuels me.
I have gone through all of the seasons since Ashley Autumn Berg passed away the day after mothers day, last year on May 14. I will never forget that day and the moment I received a message from Ashley’s mother Heart: “Our beautiful sunshine girl has passed at 2:41 am. Her courageous fight is over, Peace God bless her and us.” Next to the losses of both of my mothers, this was one of the most deeply felt losses in my life. It is pretty amazing how someone can be in your life for a short period of time and make such an impact and alter your life forever. Ashley changed my life. I am not the same person that I was before I got to know her. Ashley taught me to love unconditionally and to bring that love to everyone. That is what I am doing through our film and sharing her story to do just that. This work is bigger than me, it is my calling.
Working on our film project, #WeRideWhy, I went through all the seasons with Ashley during the last year and a half of her life. She and I laughed, we cried, we shared, we comforted and inspired each other during the production of the film and during her fight. I knew when I started down this road with Ashley, that it could be an emotionally difficult journey. When Ashley passed away, I was lost for a while in terms of where to go with this project, she was a partner on this. We were supposed to celebrate the completion and release together. The end of the story that I had written for the film was not what I had written. When Ashley passed away, it made me look at everything about this project, the why, the what, the purpose.
What this film started out to be and what it will be is much different now and more powerful. #WeRideWhy It is a love story. It is about connection and how much we really need each other to get through this thing called life. It is a conversation. It is about the positive difference, that thousands of people can make when touched by tragedy and driven by love.
My mom and Ashley are the heart and soul of the film Ashley is was and continues to be a collaborator. I feel her love, I feel her presence and hear her and my mom’s voice encouraging me to ride, on, tell this story so thousands can be lifted up, touched moved and inspired.
Jason and I started the post production process earlier this year. It is going to take several months complete the film. The editing process is very meticulous, we need continue to craft and fine tune the story, there is still a lot of writing to be done, there is Voice Over work to come from our friend Michael “Wanz” Wansley, there is music to select and of course our Music Supervisor and Andrew Joslyn and his brilliant music must be put together with everything else.
Good enough is not good enough for any of us. My mother, Judy Roth, Jenny George and Ashley, Fred Hutch Obliteride and the thousands who ride to raise money to cure cancer deserve the best that we are able to deliver and that is what they shall have. That is what YOU shall have. It is now not just about my mom, Jenny and Ashley. This is about Piper and Ashley’s family. They are the inspiration of this movie. We are committed to making a document of something that Ashley’s family can be proud of and hold in their hearts, to celebrate Ashley’s life.
So, here is what is next. Jason and I will keep our promise and have the film complete by the end of 2019. We will have small private test screenings and then post test-screening editing sessions to get to the final cut. We will have private screenings early in the year and be ready for festivals like Seattle International Film Festival, Sundance and many more. We will also host a premier and music even in Spring 2020. We will keep on hammering until we get to the top of the climb.
There is much to do between now and then. Jason and I will be heads down, hammering away. In the meantime, we will be releasing some bonus content and behind the scenes content every month so that you can see our progress and get a little taste of the film and look inside.
Our first piece we are releasing was shot up at Discovery Park / Fort Lawton in October 2018. It was chilly and overcast day. Ashley was not feeling well that day so her coming out to help drive the vehicle while her daughter Piper shot out the back and side windows, was a big deal. We got some amazing footage that day. Also, I shot some beautiful photos of the two of them. It was one of the most special days of my life. I wanted so many more of those days but it was not to be. That day would be the last time I would see Ashley and Piper together. I am so blessed to have shared that day with the both of them. Every time I see the sun on a beautiful day, I see Ashley, the sunshine girl.
To help cure cancer in our lifetime, you can make a donation on Ashley’s behalf or join our team to walk run or ride to help #CureCancerFaster. GO HERE.
…There is no finish line
It was 2 years ago at midnight, January 1st, 2017, that I sent a message (see below) to Jenny George and Ashley Berg – two young mothers impacted by cancer. In my message, I shared what I wanted to do and why their involvement would be imperative for our film to become a reality. I shared the story of losing my mom to cancer and how each of their stories touched me. Some of you already know but for context, Jenny was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was Fourteen years of age. She fought and won but the threat lingers. She helps others fight through her foundation Dancing on The Valentine. Jenny is very active in the cancer fighting community. When I met Ashley, she had been fighting cancer on and off for a few years. At the time we started production of the film, she was in Stage 4. She was in good spirits and fighting hard to stay alive for her daughter, Piper. Shortly after I sent the message, Ashley and I had deep and profound conversations about the film, her health and her fight over the course of the next year and a half. We also shared tears and a lot of laughs.
Hi Jenny and Ashley,
I want to wish you a Happy New Year. I hope this communication finds you in good health. I am not sure if you know each other but if you don’t you definitely should you share some major things in common. Number one, you both love music. Number two, you are both mothers and number three, unfortunately, you are familiar with cancer, as it has impacted you directly. As you know, I lost my mother to cancer at the age of 10. She was 31.
I watched her suffer, I watched her break her ankle from just walking from bone cancer. The cancer spread to both of her breasts and she had a double mastectomy. She also suffered from shingles. She fought hard, with dignity until the very end. My last memory of my mom when she was conscious, before she slipped into a coma was her beautiful and loving smile. I buried a lot of the pain for many years. It still haunts me.
Last year I started the healing process by riding for my mom in Obliteride 2017. I rode for my mom, Judy Roth. I had a back injury, which prevented me from training for a while so I got a late start on training on fundraising. I rode 50 miles and raised over $1000.00 to for Fred Hutch and Cancer research.
This year I plan to ride the 100–mile route next August, along with 12 other major rides next year. Fred Hutch has made amazing breakthroughs in research. Had some of the treatments and therapy’s been available to my mom back then, she would still be with us. I am going to ride for my mom again and I want to ride for the both of you. Your stories have touched me deeply and inspired me. I was moved by a power greater than myself to reach out to you. In conjunction with Obliteride, I am going to be making a documentary film tentatively titled: #WeRideWhy.
If you would like to discuss, please call me. It would be an honor to ride for you in Obliteride 2017 and tell your story to the world. Thank you for your time and consideration. God’s blessings to you and your families. I hope to talk to you in 2017. : )
Jason Tang and I had a conversation on New Year’s Day about an idea for a film project involving cycling, music, mothers and cancer. A week after I sent the above communication to Jenny and Ashley I was able to have deep discussions with them about the idea for the film, the idea for the overall story and how their individual stories tied into my mother’s own battle with cancer. Ashley wanted to understand what it was like for Piper. I wanted to understand what it was like for my mother to deal with cancer. We helped each other. Before, I hung up with Jenny and Ashley, I let them know my clear intention for this project – to touch, move inspire and call others into action. They were up for being part of it and we were ready to move forward. The ride began.
We made an announcement in social media about our intentions and launched our website. We started shooting in February that year. Jason broke out his new drone camera and the journey began. A few months later in March of 2017, our friends Kristen and Carrie Watt (Seattle Secret Shows) hosted a fundraising and launch event at Meiter in Capitol Hill. Ashley and Jenny were there and Ashley’s mother, Madchen was also in attendance. The proceeds from that event went toward Fred Hutch Obliteride. We showed our very first teaser trailer, which included home movie footage, photos and some limited footage we shot early on in production.
A week later we had Ashley and Jenny into Bubba Jones studio to get their testimonials and stories. We continued to shoot throughout the rest of the year up to Obliteride 2017 and then into the fall. That October, Ashley, her daughter and I went up to Discovery Park on an overcast day in Seattle to shot some cycling scenes. Ashley drove while Piper shot footage with an iPhone and stabilizer. We got some fantastic fall footage. Afterwards, I did a photoshoot with Ashley and Piper. The camera just loved them and the love they had for each other came through in every shot. It was a day I will hold in my heart and soul forever. Little did I know at the time, this would be the last time that I would actually see the two of them together.
Jason and I continued to shoot into the winter and then we paused to work out what else was needed. I completed the story and then it was a matter of finishing up shooting and then starting the post production process.
When we started this journey, we had no idea where it would take us and how the story would unfold. In spring of 2018, Ashley’s body was struggling to fight back cancer. The day after Mother’s Day, she took her last breath and joined God and the angels. I was blessed to be able to see her a couple weeks before she passed. I was able to share with her how much I loved her and how I am a better person because of her. I didn’t realize that I was saying goodbye. I just didn’t want to admit it. I thought that I was going to get to come visit her again, at the hospital or at home. Ashley’s spirit was so strong, that I thought that somehow she would beat her cancer back into submission, like she had before. Ashley’s passing was one of the most profound losses, I had experienced since the loss of my second mother and dad, five weeks after.
Ashley was not just a subject for our film. Ashley was and is the soul of it. She is a partner on it. We had many conversations about the ideas. She loved hearing about where we were going with the story. She held nothing back and gave us everything thing that we needed to tell the story and inspire others. Through getting to know her, I fell in love with her in the most pure and unconditional way. I admired her strength, stamina and her spirit while she fought. She raised an amazing daughter, she got up everyday to teach kids, she sold real estate. She loved to travel to sunny places. She loved old retro campers, reality TV shows like “The Bachelor.” Of course, and music was her passion and life-force, that brightened some of her darkest days. I wish I would have gotten to spend more time with her, it never seemed to be enough but with every conversation and times that we did get to see each other in person it was always special and up-lifting. When I saw Ashley, I didn’t see cancer. I just saw Ashley. And oh… That smile – One of the greatest smiles I have ever seen and I have seen many. That smile could light the entire city of Seattle! : )
Ashley inspired me, she opened up my heart and showed me, that even though her body was dying, she was more alive than most people are when there are healthy living decades beyond the time she lived. I made Ashley a promise that we would tell her story, however it turned out. It didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. When Ashley passed, the story that had been written was no longer the story. A lot of rewriting and additional shooting would need to be done.
The pain of losing Ashley brought me and the project to a standstill. It was devastating but we had to keep going, Life is like riding a bike. My love for Ashley and feeling her families pain and my admiration for them compelled us to continue the journey. In fact, we felt a bigger obligation to tell the story.
In July, 2018, we released our 1st official trailer, featuring Andrew’s original music and Michaels’s golden voice. In addition, we launched our new website and official poster.
In August of 2018, Jason and I attended Ashley’s memorial and filmed there all day. Jenny was there too. It was an incredibly beautiful and emotional day. I even got up and sang a tune with my friend, Tobias The Owl. The following week, Jason came out to Obliteride 2018 to shoot additional footage for the movie. Ashley’s family were there, including Piper. It was the first time that I saw her since our time at Discovery Park the previous October.
At Ashley’s memorial I made a promise to Ashley’s family and friends in attendance that we would tell Ashley’s story in our film. I promised them that it would be perfect, it would be brilliant and it will inspire people years to come. Ashley may not be with us but she lives in all those that she loved and those that loved her. In 2019, others in the world will know who Ashley Berg, was and is. They will also know Jenny George. Jenny’s giving spirit and her work in the community fighting cancer, really inspired me to get involved in the fight.
Sharing Jenny and Ashley’s story is an honor and will really make a difference. This project is a big undertaking. Some of it is emotional, painful and in the end we will leave the audience uplifted. We get one shot to get it right and honor those, who are at the core of the story, Judy Roth, Jenny George and Ashley Berg (#JudyJennyAshley).
The story timeline takes place between January 2017 and August 2018. Because of the subject matter and hundreds hours of footage, photos and other content, the post-production process will be meticulous. It is our objective to have the film completed in late spring 2019 and ready for test screenings, a final cut and premier in the fall. We came to the realization that to really do this right, it would take time – not to mention the fact that Jason and I have jobs, projects etc, that demand a lot our attention.
For me personally, this may be the most important promise that I have made to anyone. I honor that promise and will do whatever it takes to drive this toward completion. #WeRideWhy is a love story, a love letter, it is about, the power of a mother’s love for a child, a child’s love for their mother, connection, community and what thousands of people can do when aligned toward something greater than themselves.
The promise that I made to Ashley, Piper, her friends and family will drive me through 2019. It is one of the most important things I have ever done and will ever do. We thank you for coming on this ride with us. It will be a brilliant journey!
Greg Roth – Writer / Director #WeRideWhy