Eilleen Boyle just wishes she had known better when her daughter Caitlin called from her college dorm room one night, complaining of severe head and body aches.
Boyle, a registered nurse, knew it sounded like meningitis, but Caitlin, a junior at Marist College, had been vaccinated.
“If I knew you could still get meningitis after the vaccine I would have been up there in two hours,” said Boyle, 57, of Babylon. “I had no idea. I thought she was covered.”
A few hours after Caitlin, 19 at the time, called her mother, she was rushed to the hospital and the next day she died from meningitis B, the only strain of five that is not covered by a vaccine.
In the seven years since Caitlin’s death, the Boyle family has committed to raising money for meningitis research and awareness through the Caitlin Ann Boyle Memorial Bike Ride.
The seventh annual ride will take place Sunday. Riders will meet at 10 a.m. at Babylon Memorial Grade School, 169 Park Ave., for a leisurely 6-mile ride around Belmont Lake before returning to the school for a series of raffles.
The suggested rider donation is $20 and registration is not required.
Proceeds will be split between The Meningitis Foundation and a memorial scholarship established at Marist College. Though the ride is a rain-or-shine event, last year the rain was too heavy to participate, so the Boyle family just held a raffle, raising about $3,000.
The previous year’s ride raised about $7,000.
Boyle said she’s been heavily involved in learning more about meningitis since her daughter’s death and has found that many people don’t know the signs or symptoms of the infection or don’t get vaccinated at all.
She said for her and her husband, John, the bike ride is a way to keep moving forward despite their loss.
“It means that I’m putting energy — a lot of missing Cait energy — putting that into something positive,” she said.