About 40 youth and adults ride into Kutztown July 10 during the four-day 5th annual Ride of Dreams from Philadelphia to Hershey and back.
In addition to being a once in a lifetime experience for urban teens, Ride of Dreams is a fundraiser to support Philadelphia non-profit Neighborhood Bike Works' year-round programming. Last year the Ride of Dreams raised nearly $30,000 for NBW programs.
'Neighborhood Bike Works teaches bike mechanics and cycling skills to under-served kids and teenagers in Philadelphia year-round. Leveraging the joy inspired by riding bikes, the group instills confidence and a spirit of adventure in the young people they serve,' according to their release.
The 40 riders leave Neighborhood Bike Works headquarters in Philadelphia on July 10 and ride west across southern Pennsylvania to Kutztown. July 11, they ride to Hershey then July 12 they ride to Lincoln University and July 13 circle back to Philadelphia.
What brings the group to Kutztown for one of the stops?
'We stayed at Kutztown University two years ago on the 3rd annual Ride of Dreams to the Poconos and had a great experience,' said Neighborhood Bike Works volunteer John Hemmer of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Philadelphia.
'We try and keep our costs low so as much of the money raised as possible goes to support the organization. We are very grateful for the generous churches and community centers that donate their spaces to us but my preference is to try and stay at a University when available so that our teenagers (some who have never left Philadelphia) can get a college experience.'
Hemmer said they are traveling on a tight budget and will be staying in the dorms and eating at the dining hall at KU.
'So our youth really get to experience college life!'
He said participants include 15 youth riders from the Bike Works program and about 25 adult volunteers. There is no cost for the youth though some of their older youth riders are encouraged to fundraise. Adults pay $150 to register and pledge to fundraise at least $750, he said.
When asked what people in Kutztown can do to help, Hemmer responded, 'Registration for the ride is now closed but people in Kutztown can come meet us. We had someone from the KU cycling team talk to our students last time. Come meet us, donate and cheer us on,' said Hemmer. 'We sometimes get bikes donated throughout the year from towns as far north as Kutztown so simply letting the community know about our organization is a tremendous help.'
For the Ride of Dreams, NBW teens train for three months to tackle the 250-mile challenge. A limited number of adult cyclists ride alongside the youth and raise funds to support Neighborhood Bike Works, according to the release.
'Tackling a 250-mile ride cultivates a huge sense of achievement among the community of cyclists. For the teenage participants, it can be life changing,' according to their release.
One youth rider states, 'It was something out of the ordinary that I had never done before. It taught me determination. It takes convincing yourself that you can do this ride. There's support and people who are there to motivate you through the entire ride. It's a great experience.'
This year's sponsors include Keswick Cycle, Firehouse Bikes & Wolf Cycles, Suburban Cyclists Unlimited, Cozen O'Connor, and Greenhill Car Wash. For more information, visit www.rideofdreams.org and www.neighborhoodbikeworks.org.