By: Michael Lander
If you love to ride a bike, and you’re looking for a unique and fun way to support the children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, you will not find a better way to do both than at the 2016 St. Jude Bike Ride.
You, and hundreds of other cyclists, can participate in a one-of-a-kind bicycle event on two autumn days, (one 24-hour period), along the Mississippi River, at Riverside Drive and Tom Lee Park in downtown Memphis, that will begin at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21 and end 24 hours later on Saturday, Oct 22.
Click on this link to register for the 2016 event: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ride_home
“Everyone who signs up for the St. Jude ride can either ride solo or they can be on a team of two, six, or 12 people,” Lee Bobo said.
|Hundreds of cyclists participate in the St. Jude Bike Ride each|
year. They can either ride solo or on a 2, 6, or 12 person team
for this annual fundraising event for St. Jude Children's
Research Hospital. (Photo: Courtesy of St. Jude)
Bobo is the event director for the St. Jude team relay bike ride, a role that she has now held for three years.
“Beginning this year, we are not only offering individuals and/or their teams with a challenge of riding for 24-hours, but they can now also chose to do one of two 6-hour rides that begin at 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. on the 21st and from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the 22nd,” Bobo said.
There are no limits on how teams are formed except that they are limited to a maximum number of 12 people. They can be made up of friends, families, co-workers, members of various clubs or other organizations, or a combination of all these and more.
The upcoming 2016 team relay bike ride will be the fifth of its kind hosted by St. Jude, and it’s something that Bobo is very much looking forward to and is excited about. More than anything, she finds the whole experience of this event as something that is extremely fun and rewarding.
“The most rewarding part for me is seeing so many groups of people coming together for this one mission,” Bobo said.
That mission for Bobo is an enormous undertaking, but the payoff is huge since the money that is raised goes toward research and treatment. It can offer hope for children and their families when they are confronted by one of the most difficult and challenging circumstances that they could ever face.
|Participants get some announcements and instructions before the|
ceremonial lap commences and the St. Jude Ride officially
begins. The event continues to grow in number and St. Jude is
hoping to have at least 400 sign up for this year's ride.
The St. Jude Ride started in 2010 by Ann Leatherman who wanted to do it in appreciation of St. Jude and in honor of her daughter, Eliza. Eliza was a St. Jude patient who successfully won her battle against a life-threatening disease.
"The first year, it was a century ride that was called the 'St. Jude Give Thanks, Ride,' and the first committee was made up of mothers, aunts, and relatives of patients who wanted to give back to St. Jude,” Bobo said.
“The event was so successful that it became an annual event. The next year, (in 2011), St. Jude decided to change it to the 24-hour model to make it a unique event special to Memphis,” she added.
Since they made that change, the event has grown from 186 cyclists in the first year in 2011, to 280 cyclists in 2012, to 305 in 2014, to 325 in 2015, and Bobo said that the goal now is to have at least 400 participants in 2016.
Currently, there are 34 teams and quite a few solo riders who have registered for this year’s ride and the current total number of those who have signed up, thus far, is 185 individuals, according to Bobo.
Like last year, Bobo and her 10-person committee have worked to further encourage a more festival-type atmosphere, which she hopes will attract more spectators and enable them to enjoy the event and cheer on the cyclists as they do their ride.
|Many cyclists, like these from the 2015 St. Jude Bike Ride,|
rode throughout the night and were not deterred by the
intermittent, light rain showers.
To further facilitate this, they will seek to make accommodations that will entice people to come out, which will include a way for them to purchase a wrist band that will allow them to eat at the hospitality tent.
With the exception of adding two shorter 6-hour rides, and moving the event from late September to late October, Bobo said that cyclists will find much of what they have known will remain the same for this upcoming ride in the fall.
The ride will remain a team relay event, which means that only one person on a team can ride at any given time over the 24 hours that it takes place. Team members can decide for themselves when they want to ride and they can switch off as they wish.
|Many participants of the St. Jude Bike Ride often chose to|
spend the night in Tom Lee Park where they are treated to
a nice view of the Memphis skyline and the Mississippi
As in previous rides, cyclists will be required to wear a helmet and they must have a headlight and tail light on their bicycles, which must be turned on from dusk until dawn.
When they aren’t riding, cyclists can hang out and eat with their friends and/or family, in Tom Lee Park, and listen to live musical performances late Friday night and throughout most of the day on Saturday.
Cyclists can check out the River Art Festival on South Main Street that will be taking place the same weekend as the St. Jude Bike Ride. They can also ride over to the opening ceremony of the Harahan Bridge, which will take place at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22.
|This photo from the 2015 St. Jude Bike Ride is a daytime view|
of tent city with the Memphis skyline in the background.
After the ride, teams will be recognized and will receive awards for the most money raised as well as those on the solo, two-person, and larger teams who complete the most number of laps on the 3-mile loop of Riverside Drive.
Tracking is done with timing chips that each cyclists must have on their helmets.
Long before cyclists ever show up for the ride, Bobo and many others behind the scenes spend countless hours planning and preparing for an event of this magnitude. These efforts begin immediately after the current year’s event is over.
“It takes a full year to plan, execute, promote, and work with all of our participants who sign up,” Bobo said.
“I have a wonderful committee of 10 people…. And we have about 40 volunteers who come out and help from setting up, taking down, and everything in between. It is a huge production to put together a 24-hour event like this and we appreciate all the help we can get to make it happen,” she added.
“We can’t have enough volunteers and we gladly welcome anyone who would be willing to come out and support us at any time during this event,” Bobo said.
For those who might be interested in volunteering, they can contact Lee Bobo at Lee.Bobo@stjude.org and she will send them the sign up information.
The St. Jude Ride relies heavily on the help of its volunteers, and the hospital itself relies on the generosity of those who are willing to give. Because of them, St. Jude is able to continue to provide the care and treatment to critically ill children, which it is able to provide at no cost to their families.
The hospital was founded in 1962 by Danny Thomas and it was his vision that no child will ever be denied treatment at St. Jude based on race, religion, or a family’s inability to pay, but the only way to make that possible is through the fundraising efforts and the 24-hour bike ride is one of those ways.
The 2014 ride raised $140,000 and $210,000 was raised in 2015.
|Getting an adequate amount of sleep can be a big challenge|
for some, unless you are like Chris Sheffield who was able
to catch a little shut-eye in between one of his turns to
ride for the Gray Falcons team in 2015.
There may be no better way to have fun with friends, family, and fellow cyclists than to participate in a bike ride that helps the children of St. Jude and their families.
Even though the cyclists who participate in this event are of different ages, skills, and abilities, they all share one thing in common and that is their support of St. Jude and its lifesaving work on behalf of the children who receive treatment there.
If you love to ride a bike, and you’re looking for a unique, challenging, and fun-filled way to support St. Jude, you will not find a better way to do it than at the 2016 St. Jude Bike Ride.