Planning for the event began last year when club vice president and avid cyclist Joe Specht was approached with the idea of hosting an outdoor food fundraiser. To him, a cycling event was a “no-brainer” because fundraising could be done through both registration and sponsorship. Tropical Storm Irene would temporarily derail the project, and the club instead joined forces with the Deerfield Valley Rotary to help over 400 needy people in nine different towns.
The idea never went away and Specht views it as the best way for locals to have a positive effect on their community. “We’re a service organization and we’re constantly looking for new ways to raise money,” Specht explains. “The event is community sourced and the benefits go directly to our community. When people make charitable donations, in a lot of situations the amount of money that actually goes to the beneficiaries is not as large as you might like, but when people give to the Lions Club that percentage is very high. This event specifically is the easiest way for people to directly effect neighbors, benefit their community, and have an effect on people that they know and work with.”
The event has already attracted over 30 registered riders, with Specht expecting more. Locals and cyclists from other states such as Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey have signed up. “I had two goals set for this year, one was 50 participants and the other was grossing $5,000. We are over 30 now, and there is a good chance we could hit 50 by Saturday.”
While the event is outdoors, Specht says the tour will still raise money should the ride be affected by weather, due to sponsorship money for riders. “On the one hand you have registration fees, but when people register they get their own link to a website that enables their friends to sponsor their ride, and help support the food drive.”
Specht says that so far sponsorship dollars already exceed registration dollars. “If it rains this Saturday we have already collected the sponsorship dollars and people realize that. It’s not just a bike ride, it’s a hunger drive and I’m very excited to see how well we’ve done without peddling yet.”
There are two courses for the event, one is 50 miles and the other is 30 miles. The 50-mile course will leave Whitingham at 10 am and travel down Route 112 to Route 2 in Massachusetts and head west to Zoar Road. Cyclists will follow this road all the way back to Route 100 in Readsboro, turn east and head back to Whitingham.
The 30-mile ride takes Poverty Row to Kentfield Road and on to Massachusetts. The course travels up Zoar Road to Route 100 in Readsboro, and back east to Whitingham. Refreshments and snacks will be provided along the way, and a celebratory barbecue complete with an award ceremony for the highest fundraisers with prizes from local merchants awaits riders at the end.
According to club president Jennifer Betit-Engel, the Lions Club plans on making the tour an annual event, and while it takes time to build, the long-term goal is to continue to raise $10,000 per year. “The money raised will go directly back into the valley and that is what’s most important,” said Betit-Engel. “One in five children in Vermont experiences hunger or food insecurity, while 14% of all Vermont households are food insecure, and although there are many factors that contribute to food insecurity in Vermont, the numbers are absolutely alarming. The Whitingham-Halifax Lions Club will do the best we can to aid in this problem.”
Registration for the Hungry Lion Bike Tour hunger drive is $40 and can be completed at hungrylionbiketour.com.