There are many two-wheeled fundraisers and, in that sense, the Episcopal Community Services Foundation’s (ECSF) BikeFest is nothing new. But BikeFest is more than a charity ride; it offers riders from a variety of athletic backgrounds — both serious and occasional riders — the opportunity to learn about and engage with the local charities they’re serving. Many participants in the three rides that were organized for this weekend also work at the organizations benefitting from BikeFest. There are also educational stops along the routes.
The three rides are all within the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, which extends from Cincinnati to Delaware. The Columbus Urban Mission Treasure Hunt brings riders directly to Columbus-area service organizations, making stops at non-profits along the route. The Tour d’ Ohio is a 180-mile round trip ride from London to Cincinnati. On Friday night, riders arriving from London will sleep at the Church of the Redeemer in Hyde Park before heading north. Their accommodations will be the same as those provided for families connected to Redeemer through the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati (IHN) — riders will sleep on cots in the church. The East Side Eden Ride runs throughout the day on Saturday and includes four stopping points along the Little Miami Trail — at the 2.5-, 10-, 17- and 23-mile posts, allowing riders to select their own distance and degree of difficulty. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure.
“We wanted to keep it flexible with different ride lengths,” ECSF Executive Director Ariel Miller says. “And keep it on the bike trail, which makes it safer.”
Miller says around 70 local riders have signed up for the ride and she expects to raise more than $7,500 through the event. Riders range in age from 3 to 73 years old. The stops along the trail are staffed by Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and will offer a look into some of the organizations that will receive grants from the money raised during BikeFest. The first stop’s theme is “Nourish” and includes information on InterParish Ministry, which provides a “choice pantry” to those in need.
This means that persons seeking food assistance can pick what they want from the pantry rather than just take home a pre-loaded bag. The second stop focuses on “Shelter” and offers information about IHN’s emergency shelter programs and other sheltering initiatives. Third is “Restore” and educates riders on the work of rent and utility assistance organizations like Churches Active In Northside (CAIN). The last stop is “Equip” and presents information on organizations including the Madisonville Education and Assistance Center, which works on children’s literacy, mentoring and helping clients with taxes, food stamp applications and securing financial aid for college.
“The idea is that we’re going to be visiting different places virtually if not practically,” Rev. Nancy Hopkins-Greene says. Hopkins-Greene, a priest at Church of the Redeemer, will be riding her hybrid bicycle and plans to ride 20 miles on Sunday. She contrasts the ride to benefit dinners and bake sales. “This is a creative way to do it,” she says. “There is something in the mind-body-spirit connection in that we’re riding and not just sitting down and eating.”
Open Door of Walnut Hills is another beneficiary of BikeFest. Open Door provides support services to persons struggling with mental illness, helping them pay their bills and manage their lives.
“We pay their bills for them and give them spending money,” Executive Director Evie Foulkes says. “I consider it one of the more stabilizing programs in the community.”
Foulkes says she’ll be riding with her husband and likes that BikeFest offers something different to its participants. Open Door benefits from the other major ECSF fundraiser, Chocolate Fest, too. “But if I ate all the chocolate that’s available at that Chocolate Fest, I’d be in real trouble,” she jokes. “BikeFest is offering different opportunities to participate.”
Other organizations that will receive proceeds from BikeFest include Mount Auburn’s Church of Our Saviour Food Ministries, Valley Interfaith Food and Clothing of Lockland, and the Whiz Kids elementary school tutoring program of West Chester.
According to ECSF trustee Tom Cavill, his organization began considering a bicycle fundraiser last year. Some of the persons involved in planning suggested a long distance charity ride.
“I said, ‘How about we do this on a level that does not require the skills to bike 80 miles in a day,’ ” Cavill says. “And we wanted to make it an active process where you can get information while you are out.”
Cavill credits Miller with organizing BikeFest’s educational component. He says the only struggle was figuring how to fit the numerous charities into four stops. Cavill says the list of riders grew organically from personal relationships among the ECSF team.
“It kind of started out with some people who have a connection, friends from work, friends from the neighborhood,” Cavill says. “My goal is to have more than 100 riders.”
And Miller calls the event a kind of “holy bucket brigade.”“The money comes from the energy of the bikers to the pantries and other organizations,” Miller says. “The whole culture is tending to turn its face away (from need). There’s a perception that people are going to be drowned by the need if they let it come into their consciousness. We’d like to make this a web of love that would help catch people before they reach the ground.”
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