By Bill Plock
February 16th, 2023–There are many ways to ride bikes and raise money for charities. There was a recent article in Bicycling Magazine examining the relationship between bikes and beer which is pretty undeniable. But equally connected is raising money while riding bikes.
Riders can collect pledges for a cause, like the annual Colorado Bike MS Ride, or by being on a team like the Davis Phinney Foundation raising money for one charity. Or they can join a club like the We Ride 4 team that chooses different charities to support and offers members a large menu of weekly activities. Another way to support non-profits is picking an event that gives back to the community and the organizations that help them with things like aid stations. There is no shortage of ways to impact the world while doing something you love.
In the case of Bike MS, many individuals ride the annual two-day trip to Ft. Collins from Denver, but most riders are on teams. Said ride director Erika Barnum, “we have 150 teams and in total the ride raised 2.2 million in 2022 to fight MS.” When asked why she loves the ride, “I love cycling and the cycling community, and what better way to connect people with the MS Society’s mission than to be out there hearing their stories and building lasting relationships.” About 10% of the riders have MS.
Team Lefthand has 144 riders and raises $300,000 by themselves. The top five teams in the MS Ride raised almost $700,000. Team Audi Primal/We Ride 4 at $128,000, team Coneheads, $104,000, team Sugar Bee 83,000, and team Aint Too Proud to SAG raised $59.000.
Long-time team captain and 303 contributor, Nicole Odell has MS and with her team, Team NEO, the cause is special. Since 2016 they have been raising money. When asked how MS affects her, she says, “With MS being a disease of the central nervous system, it can have both physical and cognitive manifestations and mental implications due to the challenges of navigating a chronic disease.” She adds as the years have gone by since her diagnosis, “Currently I can say it doesn’t affect me physically in a significant way as I am able to do everything I want to do which isn’t the case with everyone with MS. Because of that, I am aware that this could change at any time, so I am always grateful for the things I am able to do.”
When asked what she appreciates most about Bike MS, “First, the National MS Society has been around since 1946 and not only does it fund research efforts to find a cure for MS, they have a large patient support program that can help people navigate the challenges of having MS. So I am glad that through Bike MS, I can support an organization that is helping many, many people in different ways.”
Whether it’s the Bike MS, the Courage Classic (Children’s Hospital), Tour de Cure (Diabetes), or The Buffalo Bicycle Classic (CU Scholarships), there are countless charitable rides. In fact, most touring, non-race rides have some sort of charitable aspect to them, some races do too like Ned Gravel (a recent story about them HERE). Here is a very comprehensive list of almost all bike rides and races in Colorado with a link to their website:
Often clubs and teams will pick epic, multi-day, non-charity-specific events such as Ride the Rockies or Colorado’s Ride and get pledges to accomplish the feat. Says Davis Phinney Foundation team director Rebecca Reifel, “We partner with or host upwards of 25-30 fundraising events every year. This includes a variety of events like The Wahooligan Tour – a virtual event hosted by our partners at Wahoo Fitness that engages thousands of fundraisers around the world on their Wahoo SYSTM platform, to Tour de Victory – a local event in Boulder that we host in May which brings together cyclists of all abilities to fundraise and ride together, to partner events like Colorado’s Ride in August where we’re a charity beneficiary of the ride. Plus many more!”
There are also national teams such as Team in Training with thousands of members nationwide who do hundreds of rides and other events on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This group encourages participants to raise money by doing a wide variety of events like marathons, triathlons, bike rides, and much more. They offer coaching packages and partner with events all over the world and often offer accompanying travel packages. 303 Chief Ambassador and former coach with Team in Training and current fund-raiser, Khem Suthiwan loves Team in Training saying, “I’m still a fundraising participant. Going strong since 2006. I love it because it’s such a supportive community. I’ve met some of my closest friends through TNT and we get to do fun things together like ride bikes in beautiful places while fighting against blood cancers.
Some events aren’t obvious charitable opportunities, but organizations like Team Evergreen and the new The Ride Collective (formerly Outside events), and Colorado’s Ride give a substantial percentage of proceeds to community non-profits.
Team Evergreen, organizers of marques events like the Triple Bypass, Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb and the Bailey Hundo are a non-profit entity that gives out hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to all kinds of organizations who volunteer and apply for grants.
Says Team Evergreen executive director, Jennifer Barbour, “I have the best job, I get to give people money and make a difference in the community. Volunteer groups help with the rides and receive money and other organizations receive grants awarded through an application process. Dozens of organizations receive money; more known ones like Bicycle Colorado or the High School Cycling League, but there are many local groups like the Mt.Evans Home Health Care and Hospice or Bootstraps that helps mountain area youths get to college.” https://www.bootstrapsinc.org
One common thread (pun intended) to many of these events is the relationship they have with Denver-based Primal Wear which supplies not only jerseys for many of these events, but also to a majority of the teams participating who want a custom look. Says Primal owner Dave Edwards, “Working with these rides is so important to Primal and me because they are a fantastic gateway and ongoing way for participants to engage in longstanding communities, healthy lifestyle and doing something that truly matters.”
In a nutshell, it’s equally easy to drink a post-ride beer as it is to make a difference to others when you ride. The thing to understand is that there are many ways to make an impact, individually for a cause, on a team, or in-directly in events that support multiple charities.