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Decade of success for Ride4United Way

Event serves dual purpose of raising funds for local organizations and promoting cycling in Durham

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

United Way Durham Region campaign director Robert Howard is a pretty proud man these days.

That pride stems from the 10th anniversary of Ride4UnitedWay, one of the organization’s largest fundraisers.

The tin edition of the ride is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 12.

“A 10th anniversary is a good thing. You see there are a lot of first annual and second annual events out there, so the fact it’s 10 years old is fabulous,” Howard tells The Oshawa Express.

And milestones aren’t the only thing to be optimistic about, as the event has grown in spades over the past decade.

“We’ve had a nice bit of growth, about 25 per cent year over year,” Howard adds. “Last year, we were around 300 cyclists, and we are trending upwards of 400 this year.”

Money raised from Ride4UnitedWay supports approximately 200 programs provided through 30 United Way-funded agencies across the region.

With a goal of $50,000 in 2018, the United Way is looking to add to the excess of $300,000 the ride has raised so far over nine years.

Howard says what sets Ride4UnitedWay apart is that funds stay within the organization and local communities.

“We are inundated by marketing companies who offer to run the event for us. It’s always been organized by us with a whole lot of community partners. None of the dollars are going to somebody’s commission,” he says.

He attributes the event’s success mostly to the power of ‘word of mouth.’

“We consider that a real positive sign,” he says. “When we send out a reminder to contestants from last year, we get apologies when they can’t come back. It’s just a totally different relationship with our participants.”

From the beginning, Ride4UnitedWay has also served the purpose of promoting cycling in Durham Region.

“We are getting some traction with the cycling community,” Howard says. “We have probably about 50 per cent of our riders coming from outside of Durham. If they can discover, when they ride their bike in Durham [that] they will have a good time and see the roads are good, it’s always a plus.”

The ride offers four-course distances from a scenic 60-kilometre course to a 160-kilometre route for avid cyclists.

Timed sections are available for more competitive riders, and back by popular demand is the ‘mystery gravel route’ designed by John Vieira, owner of Bicycle Plus in Whitby.

Be prepared to ride a distance of approximately 115 km with gravel sections.

“It’s an extremely challenging event,” Howard notes.

Organizers still have plenty of room for volunteers, whether they be adults or high school students looking to rack up required hours. Those interested can contact Howard at rhoward@unitedwaydr.com

There are numerous prizes to be won during the event as well, including $1,500 in cash.

Registration can be made in advance at ride4unitedway.com or at Sinclair Secondary School, 380 Taunton Road East in Whitby on the day of.

The ride starts and finishes at the Durham District School Board’s Education Centre located next to the school.