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Going the distance

More than 50 riders to bike for Boys & Girls Club fundraiser

BRATTLEBORO—Riders start pedaling! The third annual Going the Distance bike ride to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro will happen Saturday, June 30.

The rain date is July 1.

More than 50 riders have signed up to bike either the 100-mile or 58-mile loop from the Marlboro College Graduate School in Brattleboro through Massachusetts and back to the Boys & Girls Club on Flat Street.

Organizers tried working the two loops through Vermont but decided the Massachusetts route was “about as flat as it gets,” said Robert Nassau, president of the club’s board of directors.

“If you want to eat locally, you can think about donating locally,” said Nassau about the event that supports area youth involved with the Boys & Girls Club.

“I’m just so impressed with everything the club does,” said Nassau about his commitment to the club and participating in the ride.

He said the organization gives youth a safe and healthy place to learn, hang out with friends, and play, “not hanging out on the streets.”

“It’s an important resource for the community,” said Nassau.

This year’s fundraiser takes on an added urgency in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Irene’s rains overflowed the banks of the Whetstone Brook last Aug. 28, filling Flat Street and the buildings on it, including the club, with water. The watermark on the club’s facade stood three feet above the sidewalk, he said.

Water seeped through the building’s brickwork and doors. It filled the first floor with mud and water before flowing into the kitchen and sub-basement.

“The flood was an issue for us, and remains an ongoing issue,” said Nassau.

Individual donations, foundations, and a few large donors helped cover most expenses, said Nassau. Volunteers and local in-kind support also helped the club reopen, in a limited capacity, within 12 days.

“It was a difficulty for us and all of Flat Street,” he said. “But there was such support from the community, it really makes you feel you’re in a community of people trying to help each other.”

Other repairs, like replacing the water-warped indoor skate ramps, have taken nine months to complete.

According to Nassau, the Club spent more than $80,000 to clean up after Irene. This included the cost of flood cleanup, repairs, the replacement of a water heater, kitchen appliances, supplies, carpeting, furniture, and staff overtime. The water also warped the basketball floor rendering it unusable.

Despite generous donations, said Nassau, the club had to put its own cash towards repairs. Between Irene and cuts in a federal grant, the club faces a deficit of about $50,000.

The feds also cut the club’s funding in 2010, but delivered all the funds it requested in 2011.

The club did not have flood insurance because it was too expensive, said Nassau. The organization has, however, requested estimates for flood proofing.

“So the income from our ride is very important to the club this year,” he said.

Shorter loops, more riders

Organizers have changed the structure of this year’s ride, said Nassau.

“This year’s fundraising ride is a leisurely, fully supported ride through the Connecticut Valley of Southern Vermont and Massachusetts,” said Nassau a retired pediatrician.

Previous rides entailed a group of seven or eight taking a two-day ride across Vermont. The logistics were harder, said Nassau. This year’s loops allow more people to participate and spreads the fundraising across a wider audience.

“Eating enough and staying well hydrated are very important on a century ride,” said Nassau. “We plan to have rest stops with great food and drink at approximately 20, 40, 60, and 80 miles, with a wonderful catered lunch, provided by the Marina Restaurant, for both routes.”

A van will follow the pack of cyclists in case riders encounter problems.

Nassau said that two local riders, both from Putney, who have been in the news recently will participate.

Alicia Brelsford Dana, who recently won the National Handcycle Championship in South Carolina, and Kurt Wagenbach, a Vermont State Trooper who recently rode in the 320-mile Police Unity Ride to raise funds and recognize officers killed in the line of duty, will be part of this year’s ride.

Brad Greene of Dummerston, who was seriously injured when a car hit him while he was riding his bicycle several years ago, is also participating.

“He sees this fundraising ride as a way that he can give back to the community,” said Nassau.

Organizers have asked riders to raise $500 or more for the club.

Nassau said the fundraiser has proved successful for the past two years, and he believes that riders can easily raise the $500.

Nassau said the beauty of group fundraising is that while most individuals can’t donate $5,000, many small donations quickly total up. He also said donors appreciate a community member willing to put the work into fundraising and riding for a cause.

Nassau said the corporate sponsors — Hotel Pharmacy, The Marina Restaurant, World Learning and its team of bike-riding staff, and The Richards Group — have covered the event’s expenses so all donations will go directly to the Boys & Girls Club.

Burrows Specialized Sports, West Hill Shop, T.J. Buckley’s, The Brattleboro Food Coop, Putney Food Coop, and Price Chopper are also supporting the event, said Nassau.

Funds will support the Club’s services and programs for local youth. Nassau reports that as of June 7, riders had raised more than $27,000 for the Club.

Donations can be made by check and each rider has a personal fundraising page on First Giving for online donations. Organizers have T-shirts “and other goodies” for all riders and prizes for the top fundraisers.

To donate, visit www.firstgiving.com/bgcbrattleboro/null. Click on “view all” to see a list of riders and the click on their personal fundraising page. Checks can be made out to the Boys & Girls Club, with a rider’s name in the memo line and mailed to the Club at 17 Flat St. Brattleboro, VT 05301. Checks sent to the club avoid the online donation processing fee.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #157 (Wednesday, June 20, 2012).

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