When Jen Charrette watches toddlers scooting around on pedal-less Strider bikes, she feels a grief-tinged happiness. The children remind her of Axel, her 2-year-old son who was slain in a Mexican beach town while the family was wintering there in February 2013.
Axel liked nothing better than to push himself along on his Strider — or his “chariot” as his parents called it — as fast as his chubby little legs would take him.
“It is bittersweet,” Jen Charrette said about watching other kids on the bikes now. “It mostly just makes me feel good to remember him in that way.”
Instead of withdrawing into grief, Jen, her husband, Randy, and their oldest son, Kalden, continue to honor Axel by ensuring other kids learn to enjoy cycling. Through their Axel Project foundation they have given away 120 of the beginner Strider bikes and introduced countless kids to the benefits of exercise through Axel Adventure Zones at cycling events like the recent Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge.
On Saturday, the Charrettes held the Axel Project fundraiser bike ride from their town of Ridgway to Telluride and back. More than 80 people who have been moved by Axel’s story registered to pedal over Dallas Divide.
The riders are from around the country and did include pro racer
Tom Danielson, who recently won the Tour of Utah and was second in the Pro Challenge. But Danielson’s successes, and his team’s new schedule for him, forced him to withdraw from the Axel ride this week — but not to pull back on his support for the cause.
Danielson has promised to collaborate with the Charrettes on a fundraising ride in Boulder at Thanksgiving.
While the Charrettes have been devoting themselves to building the Axel Project, they have also been working to make sure Axel’s suspected killer and an accomplice are prosecuted in Mexico. The two have been held in a Mexican jail since the day of the slaying.
“It’s been a long process,” Randy Charrette said. “They are still in the middle of the trial.”
The Charrettes have retained a lawyer in Mexico to keep them informed about the case. The Mexican Consulate in Puerto Vallarta also has been helpful, Randy said.
Eleodoro Carlos Rodriguez Sanchez is standing trial on charges of rape and murder. His former girlfriend, Nancy Saralee Solorio Perez, is being tried for homicide because she allegedly did nothing to stop the killing after she let Sanchez into the Charrettes’ gated rental home in Sayulita. She was babysitting the Charrette children.
Jen Charrette said when she attends Axel Project events, including the ride and the Strider zones this weekend, she does not focus on those grim circumstances. She stays positive by watching excited kids taking their first spin.
Nowadays, she sometimes does that with a baby strapped in a pack.
Lars Charrette was born three months ago to the 40-year-old mother who shouldn’t have been able to have more children. Her tubes had been tied after Axel was born. Her chance of getting pregnant was less than 1 percent.
“We call him our little miracle baby,” she said.
And in 10 months or so, she said, Lars will be clambering on a little bike — just like Axel did.