Friday, August 22, 2008

The charitable side of cycling

In my last post, I wrote about the "rotten apples" in the cycling world who ruin things for others. This is not just true in cycling. I am sure every sport and hobby suffers from RAS (rotten apple syndrome). However, there is an upside that feels more like a pot of gold then a silver lining. Cyclist are a generous bunch of folks.

In 2007, Americans donated an estimated $229 billion to non-profit organizations. If you add corporate gifts the number swells to $306.4 billion. This is not your everyday spending money. These are some serious donations. In a world where the media seems hell-bent on convincing us how bad things are getting, these numbers make me feel proud of this country.

There is no doubt that a fair amount of these donations came from cyclists and triathletes. Every weekend, almost year round, there is some charity cycling event going on. And these events draw thousands of cyclist. In some cases these events are also great for the local economy as people choose a ride and build a vacation around it. The Wine Country Century sells out within weeks every year and as much as 30% of the riders come from outside Sonoma County. My recent Colorado road trip was built around The Courage Classic (which raised $2.6 million in 2007).

Most of us are familiar with Team in Training. TNT has raised over $850 million in their 20 year history through centuries, marathons, and triathlons. And they are not alone. Here is just a sampling of some of the major non-profit organizations that use cycling events as fund raisers.

American Cancer Society - ACS Bike-A-Thon, top 25 teams raised over $1 million in 2008
American Diabetes Association - Tour de Cure® events, $13 million in 2007
American Lung Association - Clean Air Challenge® events, Alaska raised nearly $300k this year
National Multiple Sclerosis Society - MS-150 events, national team BP raised over $1 million
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - Team in Training®, $850 million in 20 year history

Everyone reading this also knows of tens, if not hundreds, of local charity rides supporting a plethora of social causes. Most of these events have rides that run the full spectrum of fun from 20 mile family rides to extremely challenging 200k endeavors.

I have completed numerous charity rides and I always seem to meet the nicest people. It is actually what appeals to me over racing (that and the fact that I am slow). Some of the riders have amazing stories. Some are riding in memory of others. They are all smiling and having a great time. (Okay. They may not be smiling on all of the climbs.)

So if you are looking for something to do before the summer ends, find a ride. You will be giving a little coin to support a good cause, meeting great people, and getting a little exercise all at the same time. And that's not a bad way to spend the day.


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