When you’re a kid, your world is only as big as your feet will carry you. Growing up in the late ‘70s in a middle class Los Angeles suburb, you were basically issued a bike at 4 or 5 years old. In an era devoid of cable TV and video games, a bicycle extended the size of your world. Places and friends that were out of reach on foot were now obtainable.
The freedom of getting on a bike and simply riding was liberating beyond anything I had experienced. It was a place for me to be alone with my brain. As a child with ADHD, being on the bike seemed to silence the noise that was always in my head and focus me even better than the Ritalin my mother refused to medicate me with.
[Tweet “I’ve always said that it’s not the bad kids who get in trouble; it’s the bored ones.”] At its inception 12 years ago, the goal of Everyone Rides was to raise money to buy bicycles for at-risk kids in Lee and Collier County. I partnered with the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club in Lee County and we held the first Everyone Rides event at FGCU in 2004. We set out with roughly 50 riders and the modest goal of buying 25 bikes for kids. And to be honest, I don’t even think we called it “1st Annual” because I don’t know if there was any intention of having a “2nd Annual.” The amount of work that goes into starting an event like this is overwhelming; the months of details and planning, and the stress associated with it, were all-consuming. But then, a funny thing happened: at the end of the event, we had hit our goal and, instead of feeling relieved it was over, I immediately began thinking about how to make the event bigger next time.
The biggest changes have happened over the last three years thanks in part to the Red Sox Foundation. When we moved the event to JetBlue Park, it gave us a huge canvas to create our event. We added a running event, a health and fitness expo, and a kids’ zone, and brought in a dozen restaurants. Professional cyclists like three-time Tour de France Champion Greg LeMond and world-class cyclists Frankie Andreu, Tom Danielson, and Phil Gaimon have all attended in past years to help us raise money for the Boys and Girls Clubs. In 2015, NASCAR Champion Bobby Labonte will join us.
Over the past three years, the event has grown well beyond “buying bikes for kids.” Why? Simply, we ran out of kids who needed bikes. Now, we help fund much-needed programs at the Boys and Girls Clubs and have raised over $250,000 through the riding and support of the community.
I didn’t set out with a goal of creating the largest charity cycling event in Southwest Florida. Originally, I just wanted to ensure that at-risk kids would have bikes. I wanted their world to be a little bigger. By partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lee County, I have connected with so many amazing people who have helped move this event forward. I would list each of them here, but it would fill the entire page, and sadly, I would still leave some of them out. All of the supporters and volunteers over the past 12 years have left their mark on this event. I am able to look at Everyone Rides and see the inspired ideas of hundreds of people in the creation of this amazing community event.
For several years, I would quit on the day of the event. I would prepare a nice speech about what a great ride it’s been, and then it’s time to walk away. One of the last things we do each year is give bikes out to our kids. And it never fails — when I see their delighted faces, I immediately want to go bigger next year. That responsibility has now been placed in the capable hands of Maura Granger, but I am certain it will continue to grow. And let’s be honest: In spite of saying I will walk away each year, I’m sure you will all see me on Sunday, December 6, at JetBlue Park.
Want to join the ride? Visit everyonerides.org and register for a family-friendly, multi-distance bike ride or a 5K fun run. All proceeds from the event benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lee County.