NEWBERRY — On Friday more than 300 cyclists rolled onto the campus of Newberry College as part of a three-day, 252-mile fundraiser called A Ride to Remember, sponsored by the South Carolina chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Many participants were riding in honor of someone they know who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease and others are simply riding to show support for their friends.
“They care so greatly about their friends and their friends are so dedicated to trying to help us end Alzheimer’s disease that they come along for the ride. And that ride just happens to be 252 miles on the back of a bike,” said Taylor Wilson, director of communications and advocacy.
According to Wilson, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death today in America and the only one in the top with no treatment, cure or way to slow its progression.
“This is our signature South Carolina event that we do each year,” said Kimberly Best, senior director of development. “As of this morning they had already raised over $375,000.”
The organization’s primary goal is to provide care and support for people dealing with the disease through education, a 24-hour help line and one-on-one care consultation.
Additionally, Best said the Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s largest non-profit funder of research.
Van Matthews, a member of Newberry College’s Class of 1975 and former board of trustees member, was actually integral to getting the event up and going in 2009.
After consulting with different people about starting a charity ride, he was told he should expect to not break even the first year.
“We’re not in the business to go in the hole,” Matthews told them.
That year 21 people rode in the event and after expenses they cleared $15,000.
In the seven years since, growth has been exponential.
“This is the absolute best supported three-day ride in the South,” Matthews said. “It’s just a phenomenal experience.”
While the ride is not new to the City of Newberry, this is the first year riders were hosted by the college.
“It gave me nothing but great pride to have 311 cyclists pull in to Newberry College, see the beauty of the campus and enjoy the fantastic hospitality that Newberry College always offers,” Matthews said.
Emily Banks rode in the event two years ago and she and her husband have since become volunteers.
“At first I just wanted to ride the distance and as I got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association I met a lot of people who became friends and I became more involved with the cause and finding a cure,” Banks said.
Banks had no prior cycling experience before committing to the trek but was able to build up to it in the months leading up to the race.
Since getting involved Banks said she and her husband, Steven, have formed many enduring friendships based on the common ground of being impacted by Alzheimer’s.
“I think that’s the difference between a ride and a race,” Steven said. “In a race you’re solely trying to win but a ride is for a cause so everyone’s after the same goal.”
Tom Pierczynski rode as part of a group representing Cycle Haus, a bike shop in Simpsonville which provided roadside repair to riders along the journey.
In addition to being a cycling enthusiast, Pierczynski also had a grandmother who passed away from Alzheimer’s.
“Just watching how sweet of a woman she was when I was a little kid and how much she kept nine kids together and 20-something grand kids together — just watching her deteriorate over the years — you know what I mean?” he said.
While the ride may have ended Sunday, interested parties can still donate through the end of July at www.aridetoremember.org.
Reach Carson Lambert at 803-276-0625, ext. 1868, or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.