Last Saturday, I found myself – as part of Team NESCA for AANE – at the starting line for a bike ride, waiting apprehensively for my turn to start, carefully balancing my bike between my legs, stretching my legs and checking my tires. I was a bit nervous, because I’m not an experienced or competitive bike rider. But this was not a race: it was the 28th annual Rodman Ride for Kids, one of the most congenial, supportive athletic events you can imagine and my apprehension soon faded among the general high spirits of riders and volunteers around me. Team NESCA’s turn soon came and we took off, surrounded by about 1,500 other joyful riders.
The joy of the day was primarily because all of us riders had a shared goal – to raise money for programs that benefit at-risk children across Massachusetts. Team NESCA took to the road to support one of our favorite local nonprofits: Asperger’s/Autism Network (AANE), which provides a wide variety of educational, outreach and supportive programs for individuals and families affected by autism.
The Rodman Ride is unique. Instead of being run by and for one large entity, the Rodman for Kids charity serves as the organizational powerhouse behind the ride, allowing even small nonprofits to participate in a major fundraiser. About 45 small nonprofits, like AANE, take advantage of the fact that the Rodman for Kids charity does all the organizational legwork: setting up a website for fundraising, identifying and marking the course, and enlisting an army of volunteers to make the race happen. Any social service agency that supports at-risk children in Massachusetts can participate. There is no fee; in fact, the Rodman organization adds 3% to any dollars raised. Over the years, the Rodman Ride has raised about $144 million dollars!
One fun part of the day was reading the jerseys of all the other riders and feeling uplifted just by seeing how many organizations are working to support at-risk children in our state. At this time, when so much of the daily news is disheartening, it was inspiring to be surrounded by thousands of people who are putting time and energy into supporting vulnerable children. Beyond the riders, over 500 other companies sponsor the volunteer activities that support the ride. We rode with a friend who was riding for Trinity Foundation, and were surrounded by many riders from Mass Mentoring and Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. Our cheerful announcer, who kept us all organized at the starting line, introduced various groups and invited them to speak about their efforts. Did you know there is a nonprofit group called Above the Clouds, which takes children with disabilities on plane rides? Who knew?
Team NESCA was thrilled to be part of the day; we, along with about 20 other riders for AANE, helped AANE raise over $56,000 to support their programming for the coming year.
And we had fun. It was a beautiful ride, with perfect weather, through the mostly flat streets around Foxborough and Lake Massapoag. There were volunteers ringing cowbells and shouting directions and encouragement anytime we had to make a turn. The water stops had piles of snacks – from bananas to chocolate energy bars – and a DJ pumping out bouncy songs. There was breakfast and coffee at the beginning and a great barbecue lunch and beer at the end.
All in all, it was so inspiring to join with so many other people who are committed to helping at-risk youth. I’ll be buying my next car at Rodman Ford. In the meantime, who’s up for riding with Team NESCA and AANE next year?
This article was originally published on NESCA’s Blog and appears courtesy of Nancy Roosa and NESCA.
Find out more about the Rodman Ride for Kids and how you can participate!