Cyclists will hit the trails this weekend aiming to raise funds and spread awareness about MennoHomes’ affordable housing project in Elmira, which is currently under construction.
Now in its sixth year, the MennoHomes Out-Spok’n Bike-a-thon typically raises around $45,000 annually, said executive director Dan Driedger.
“The last couple of years we’ve averaged about $45,000 in net donations per year, so it’s a pretty energetic group. They’re coming out to ride and they also go out and do some significant work on the fundraising side of things as well,” Driedger said.
He expects they’ll see about 100 people out this Saturday for the event, including the motorcycle component of it in the afternoon. About 110 registered for the ride last year, up from 80-some participants the previous year.
The general ride for the bike-a-thon leaves Elmira Mennonite Church at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. Cyclists will head to the Kissing Bridge Trail from there and either turn right to go to West Montrose and back or left and go toward Wallenstein and back. Each of those legs are roughly 14 kilometres round trip, and some people do both.
“There’s also a group of more enthusiast cyclists who leave from St. Jacobs Mennonite Church around 7 in the morning. They actually show up at the Woolwich Observer office around 7:30 to pick up any people who want to join them and then from there they head on up to the Shand Dam in Fergus and then they come back in time for our barbecue lunch. That’s about a 75-kilometre round trip ride,” Driedger said.
They’ll have a barbecue going at noon, along with some door prizes supplied by local businesses. Then there’s a motorcycle tour that leaves shortly after the barbecue, riding through scenic parts of southwestern Ontario for three hours.
The bike-a-thon was held in Kitchener its inaugural year, but has been happening in Elmira every year since. He says this is because it seems to be a nicer ride for the cyclists and using the trails means it’s a lot safer and family friendly.
Participants are encouraged to canvas prior to the ride, but it’s not compulsory.
“Although we like to think it’s all about MennoHomes, it’s really about the people who are working to support our project. They’re the ones who connect us with people and they say if you’re invested in this enough that you’re going to take a part of your day to participate and go and ask people for money then we’re going to get behind you. So that’s encouraging,” Driedger said.
As a small non-profit, the fundraising is important, but raising awareness about their work is equally important, he adds.
It’s their main fundraiser of the year aside from a fall concert.
Last year’s funds went to the affordable housing project in Elmira and they will this year too.
“We still have a fair bit of work to do there. We’re actually talking now more about the overall $3.1 million campaign, as opposed to the thing that we kicked off in the fall. Towards that $3.1 million – and that’s on the donation side of things – we’re at about $2 million right now that we have raised through donations or pledges. We are hopeful that once the big equipment is in there and people see the foundation and the building rising up out of the ground the folks that have been waiting to see if it’s actually going to happen will get excited about it again,” Driedger said.
Everyone is welcome to participate and you can register on Saturday morning at Elmira Mennonite Church or online at www.mennohomes.com. Registration begins at 9 a.m., with a 9:30 a.m. departure time.