Riding for Rwanda
The 5th Annual 50 Mile Ride for Project Rwanda will be held on Saturday April 30, 2011 in Orange County CA. What began as a 50th birthday ride for one of the event’s founders back in 2006 has evolved into one of the largest and most popular mountain bike events in Southern California. Event organizers expect to exceed 600 participants in this year’s event.
The “Rwanda Ride” (as it’s come to be known) is different than most mountain bike events. First of all, the event is a “ride” not a race. There are no timers and no pressure. Riders participate for a lot of reasons: some for the challenge of riding further than they’ve ever ridden before, some because they love the Project Rwanda cause, some to share in the fun and camaraderie of the huge biking crowd. Second, the event is a fundraiser (with an emphasis on FUN). In its first four events, the Rwanda Ride has raised over $150,000 for Project Rwanda.
“This 50 Mile Ride event has taken on a life of its own,” says event founder Doug Grant. “The rider and the volunteer and sponsor support are incredible year after year. It’s a blessing, and very humbling too.” While the event attracts mostly local riders, some participants travel across the country to join the fun. New England resident Bill Boles said: “Had a great time at your benefit ride. We came from Boston Massachusetts to do the ride and I was impressed with how well organized it was. Not to mention how much fun it was. Good job!” Kevin Cusack, a Project Rwanda board member, traveled all the way from Michigan: “Wanted to say that was a fantastic event! First class all the way, well organized, great course, huge turnout and awesome prizes.”
Project Rwanda was founded by Tom Ritchey, a pioneer in the mountain bike industry. Tom first visited Rwanda in 2005. He was awed by the natural beauty of the country – “the land of 1000 hills”. Even more than that, Tom was inspired by the people and their spirit of reconciliation and hope. Tom knew he could use his talent and resources to help make a difference – and Project Rwanda was born.
Project Rwanda’s mission is to further the economic development of Rwanda through initiatives based on the bicycle as a tool and symbol of hope. Within its tiny borders Rwanda has nearly 500,000 small-holder coffee producers, harvesting an average of only 200 coffee trees each. Project Rwanda has designed a special utility bike that can quickly and efficiently transport heavy loads of coffee. This cargo bike can increase a farmer’s earning potential by 30-40 percent, giving them an opportunity to rise above poverty for the first time in their generation. In addition, Project Rwanda has been instrumental in selecting, training, equipping, and supporting the Rwandan National Cycling Team. The team is now participating in international cycling events, and one day hopes to represent Africa in the Olympic Games. “I’ve had the honor of meeting Team Rwanda,” says Grant. “They’re all fine young men who appreciate the opportunity they’ve been given. They give back to their communities and serve as great role models and ambassadors for Rwanda.”
Rwanda Ride participants can choose to ride the full 50 mile route, or a shorter 25 mile option. Both routes start and finish at Cooks Corner, a popular “biker bar” and restaurant in Trabuco Canyon. The route uses a network of popular trails that pass through O’Neill Park, Robinson Ranch, Coto de Caza, Caspers Park, Las Flores, and again through O’Neill on the way back to Cooks for the finish. Cooks Corner serves up a barbecue for the post-ride party, generously donating the proceeds to Project Rwanda. A huge raffle drawing – with over $10,000 in prizes and merchandise – caps off the days festivities.
Almost 500 riders participated in last year’s event, and organizers expect over 600 this year. Most riders come back year after year. First time participant Derek Nye agrees: “This was 50 miles of epic fun. What a great event, to the ride, to the people, to the trails and the great, great volunteers. You can be very proud of this event and its great cause. Can’t wait for next year.”
The Rwanda Ride provides riders, sponsors, and their families an opportunity to make a real difference just by doing something they already love doing. For more information and to register for the ride, please visit www.50mileride.com.