The Great American Bike Race - The Largest Fundraiser of Its Kind
Each April, Bismarck, North Dakota, hosts the largest fundraiser of its kind in the country. One hundred teams take part in what's called the Great American Bike Race (GABR). Each team consists of ten people - that makes 1,000 riders!
There is a catch - the race is held indoors and takes place on stationary bikes. And the point of holding such a fundraiser? Well, the motto has always been, "Do it for the Kids!" Kids with cerebral palsy and related disabilities. Oftentimes these special needs children are in need of equipment and services not covered by insurance. For some families, the funds raised by GABR have been a life saver.
Better Than Christmas
The kids that this fundraiser is held for get so excited about the bike race that they have been known to say, "It's better than Christmas." Some of the kids with cerebral palsy even ride on their own team, even if it's just for a few minutes. It gives them a chance to focus on their ability instead of their disability.
Other kids who may not be able to ride often have family and friends who form teams in their honor. A local bank, who employs a special needs parent, forms not one, but eight teams. Also, most of the physical, occupational and speech therapists who work with these kids are a part of it as well. The kids know that all of the effort put into this fundraiser is for them and they couldn't be more excited about it.
The Great American Bike Race is in it's fourteenth year and has raised over one million dollars. It all began with the vision of one man - Dr. Kevin Murphy, a board certified physician in adult and pediatric rehabilitation. He is employed by Gillette Children's Hospital in Minnesota but comes to Bismarck every quarter (when he's not serving in Iraq) to monitor the progress of children who are receiving theraputic services through MedCenter One in Bismarck.
The team captain meeting held in February kicks off the event and then all 1,000 riders go out and raise funds. On race day, some riders in the race try to get as many miles as they can in the 25 minutes that they are on the bike. Some team members compete against each other and sometimes whole teams compete.
There are some serious riders who have actually ridden close to 20 miles on their stationary bike in the allotted time. But then there are those who don't care if they ride two miles - as long as they stay on the bike for 25 minutes, well, that's good enough for them. What everyone does agree on is that Race day is loud, crazy, fun and inspiring.
GABR funds have helped families in the following ways:
- $155,923 towards therapy and medical services
- $41,187 towards orthotics
- $180,504 towards adaptive equipment
- $121,334 towards wheelchairs and accessories
- $189,866 toward home and vehicle modification
GABR funds have also helped families buy accessible vehicles and puts $7,500 towards a wheelchair accessible van.
A Community Effort
All riders and volunteers who participate, agree that this is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in a wonderful fundraiser. It's also a community event with several business serving as corporate sponsors, including The Bismarck Tribune, and the local television station who televises the race live over their noon hour. A local radio station plays all the music and keeps everyone entertained.
Once someone gets involved and actually attends the event, they are hooked and remain involved through the years. What a privilege for Bismarck, North Dakota to host this amazing event.