A few weeks ago, I signed on for my very first charity ride. Okay, it’s not really the first first, but it’s the first at which riders were encouraged to not only enter for the cause, but to do a little fundraising as well. It looked like a fun ride, a friend had done it last year, and the cause was worthy…MDA, or what most of us think of us as the Muscular Dystrophy Association. You know, Jerry’s kids. I signed on for the longest distance available, logged onto my fundraising page, and began the time-honored process of annoying friends and neighbors by asking for donations.
Charity rides are becoming commonplace in the cycling community. And why not? Charity rides give riders a chance to get together with others who share that same interest, go on a hopefully fun group ride, maybe even challenge ourselves with a distance beyond our normal routine. In the process we can put that time to good use, and hopefully raise some money for a worthy cause, all before gorging on the post-ride pasta-and-soup extravaganza, or what I like to refer to as the “eating food I would never normally touch at this hour of the morning” portion of the event.
It’s a fun time for all. Or maybe not…
My first indication that trouble may be afoot was when a family member (I’ll protect their identity) resisted my suggestion to tell their friends about what I was doing. In this person’s view, everybody is suddenly asking for money. Last week it was the breast-cancer walk, this week it’s me and MDA, next week who knows? Time’s are tough, and people like me are getting, well, annoying.
Then, I heard that person tell someone I was just doing it for the free jersey. And he or she (how’s that for careful!) wasn’t joking. Was I that shallow?
Maybe a little. To me, that’s all part of the fun of a lot of these events — the participant gets a t-shirt or jersey that says they did it. It’s a souvenir, the kind that bike geeks seem to love. Am I wrong to think the incentive for doing the ride is cool?
More to the point, why is something I originally thought would just be a nice day for a good cause turning into something I feel bad about?
I thought about that for a while. Then I went to the charity’s web site and watched a video about what the money raised is used towards. One of the main goals is to send kids with neuromuscular diseases to a summer camp. That might not sound like anything earth shattering, but if you learn more you’ll see that kids who attend these camps frequently note that it was the one, special time in their lives when they didn’t feel different. When they could relax and have fun, and just be accepted as themselves. The one time they remember when they weren’t the kid in the wheelchair, or the kid with the leg brace, but just a kid, with friends, having fun. Think about that for a moment. If you have healthy children of your own, think about it for a moment longer.
Yes, times are tough, and friends asking for money are annoying. But come on, can’t most of us spare a few dollars? And as a participant, if we can raise that money by doing something that we’re uniquely qualified to do, is it wrong that we also enjoy the event…right down to the souvenir jersey?
As long as we don’t overdo it, can’t we annoy our friends every so often if the cause is just?
In two weeks I’ll be riding for a great cause, sharing the generosity of some truly kind friends and family, and maybe even wearing a free jersey.
And feeling good about all three…