Bikes for Kids Charity Ride on Oct. 1
by Jenn McCulloch
For nearly three decades, the non-profit organization Bikes for Kids (BFK) has collected, repaired, and safety-tested nearly 21,000 used bicycles that were then in turn given to those in need. On Sunday, Oct. 1, BFK will host its second annual charity ride with four rides to choose from that take cyclists through routes in Essex, Deep River, Chester, Haddam, Killingworth, Westbrook, and Clinton.
“We have a ride for every ability,” said BFK President David Fowler. “It’s a chance to get outside and spend some family time together in some of the most beautiful scenery in southern Connecticut, like River Road, the Essex docks, and the forest of Cockaponsett, while supporting a good cause.”
BFK was founded by Chuck Graeb in 1989. After he passed away, Fowler, a longtime volunteer, approached Graeb’s family about continuing Graeb’s efforts. Under Fowler’s leadership, the group officially became a non-profit and the BFK Wheelhouse recently relocated to 36 Plains Road in Essex, where the intermediate rides will begin.
The more challenging intermediate routes include a 27-mile option that begins at 9 a.m. or a 55-mile ride that goes through seven towns starting at 7:30 a.m. The family rides meets at Essex Town Hall, 29 West Avenue, with three-mile and 12-mile options, both starting at 10 a.m. Intermediate ride registration is $40 and family rides are $15.
“We’re starting the little kids behind Town Hall so they’re riding right in the village,” said Fowler. “It’s much safer and we have ride leaders and a truck with lights to keep everybody safe. Sunday morning around here is a pretty nice time to ride.”
Riders should check in 30 to 45 minutes before start time. The post-race celebration will be held at the BFK Wheelhouse where there will be food, tours, information on bike safety, a bike rodeo, and more.
In its inaugural year in 2016, the BFK Charity Ride drew 75 cyclists. Fowler is hoping to get 200 riders this year as this is the group’s largest fundraiser. While the organization is run by many volunteers who live throughout the shoreline area, it relies on fundraisers and donations to cover its costs.
Fowler noted that people are so generous that there has never been a shortage of bikes and BFK has been able to meet the need for children and adults throughout Connecticut. BFK has also donated beyond state lines and is hoping to send a truckload of bikes to those in need after the recent hurricanes.
“The Elks Club is Westbrook is doing a big bike collection in October and our guys are getting 300 bikes ready to go,” said Fowler. “We’re looking for someone with a trailer truck and license to get them down there.”
While plans are being made for future donations and events—the group will help locals decorate bikes for the holiday parade in November—the focus right now is on the charity ride.
“It will be a fun day with some beautiful scenery along some nice rides. There’s a little bit for everybody,” said Fowler. “I hope we can get a nice turnout because it’s our big fundraiser of the year and what really keeps us rolling so we can keep what we’re doing going.”