Biking For Family

May 1, 2001       Matthew Sinclair      

Combining healthy living with “family values,” Focus on the Family (FTF) has fired the starting gun on its new fundraiser. The Colorado Springs, Colo., organization most recognized for radio programs, magazines and founder Dr. James Dobson has created a bicycle ride that will hit all 50 states.

Lisa Anderson, FTF’s publicist for the National Bike Ride for the Family, said upwards of 30 to 50 riders in each state will cover an average of 200 miles of road in 50 separate rides. Each event will take place over three days and combine scenic routes with building awareness of the organization and its mission.

“Focus on the Family has so many supporters who ask what can we do here locally at the grassroots level,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity to introduce Focus to people who might not know us.”

Anderson said the target goal is $4.5 million, a new venture for an organization that barely has a fundraising department and lives off an average donation of around $10. FTF placed 69th in the 2000 NPT 100, raising $122 million. It spent approximately 5.5 percent on fundraising in fiscal year 1999.

Anderson said each rider will be asked to raise $3,000 per leg. In addition, the riders, who will mostly live in the states where the rides take place, pay a $200 registration/administration fee, and the organization will outfit them with a uniform bike suit.

The event began in central California this past January, where the registration was capped at 55 bikers “for insurance purposes,” Anderson said. “We don’t have the capabilities for a 1,000-person ride.”

The organization hopes to average three or four rides each month before culminating in the final ride in July 2002. That ride will take place in Colorado to commemorate the organization’s 25th anniversary. Anderson said FTF plans to invite all the riders to come to Colorado for the last 10-20 mile leg of that ride. Along the state routes, communities big and small have organized events to coincide with the ride and offer local flavor. Anderson said the recent Louisiana leg featured a crawfish boil and fireworks near New Orleans, for example. “We’re not going on any interstates,” she said. “We’ll pick the most scenic (routes) but also pick ones where we have a lot of media and constituent support.”

The organization conducts a safety orientation and has medical support with the riders as well as keeping tabs on participants who have known medical concerns. One rider in California was diabetic, and an Ohioan with an insulin pump just finished his first “century ride” of 100 miles to be ready for his state’s leg this summer.

Anderson added that the ride helps to drive home the organization’s mission of the needs of the family, which will be a message she expects politicians and Christian musical artists will share with audiences throughout the country.

Anderson said the ride will take avid cyclists as well as amateurs, many of whom train together.

While FTF is not a health organization, she noted that the event is encouraging some to take better care of themselves. One man lost 70 pounds while training to ride, according to Anderson. FTF doesn’t expect “everyone looking like Greg LaMond,” she said, referring to former Tour de France winner. “By and large, these are people who are getting on bikes for the sake of doing it (to support the organization).”

Unlike the team programs begun by health organizations, FTF isn’t training these amateur athletes.

“Obviously, we can’t police anyone about their training,” Anderson said. “We’ve found that anyone who is reasonably fit and will commit to training for two, two-and-a-half months can do this.”