It’s a brisk autumn morning on the west side of the Connecticut River, just 25 minutes from the University of Massachusetts. While most of the Pioneer Valley is still asleep, some dedicated bicyclists are gearing up at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. They’re about to embark on the second annual Will Bike 4 Food event. Alex Simisky, the organization’s communications coordinator, explains the idea is to combine the Valley’s love of cycling with the mission of the Food Bank.
“It’s designed to get people outside and raise money for the food bank at the same time,” Simisky says. “Every single dollar raised is going to go right back to buying food for all four counties in western Mass.”
Cyclists can choose how far they’d like to ride. The 25-mile route takes you into South Deerfield while the 50-mile route goes up to Turner Falls in Montague. For the adventurous riders, the 75- and 100-mile routes cross into Vermont. No matter how far they pedal, all routes return to the Food Bank where an after-party will be held this afternoon.
But you can’t just show up here and ride a bike. Every rider had to pay a $35 registration fee and meet a fundraising minimum of $250. While that may sound intimidating, Northampton resident Llama Maynard says small donations from a lot of people can go a long way.
“Some people I work with and people I know would give five dollars and the way the fundraising is, every one dollar you contribute in this ride, the food bank can turn into 13 dollars worth of food. So I was able to tell my friends and family ‘you’re donating 65 dollars worth of food. Five dollars is awesome,'” Maynard says.
Although this is her first 50-mile bike ride, she won’t be doing it alone.
“Yeah I’m six months pregnant,” Maynard adds. “I’ll take it slow. We’re not rushing today.”