When you are driven by a great cause, like working to end the cycle of hunger and poverty experienced by millions worldwide, a 500-mile bike ride seems a little more possible. Twenty-nine cyclists from across Texas, along with a few riders from Colorado and New York, joined together May 11-16 for the Sixth Annual Bike Out Hunger-Texas ride. This year, the team traveled from Boerne, near San Antonio, to Dallas with shared goals to raise money and awareness for hunger needs across Texas and around the world.
Funds raised by the cyclists were given to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, which supports 180 ministries worldwide through food programs, education initiatives, job training and more.
Gavin Huddleston, a member of First Baptist Church of Arlington, was fulfilling a goal on his bucket list by riding this year. While achieving the personal goal, he found the week's ride to be much more rewarding than he imagined.
"I feel energized from the experience, and deeply moved by the opportunity to support hungry children - to have been blessed by my firm's financial contributions in just a week to fundraise," he said. "I ride many charity events during the year, but none of them have the personal significance - the deep personal investment that goes with BOH. I can't do enough to make a big difference, but I can make some difference this way."
The riders faced many challenges during the week, particularly due to weather problems caused by the influx of rain experienced statewide in mid-May. An increased number of flat tires and rain delays were experienced, in addition to the first-ever BOH weather cancellation, which occurred on day three, 11-miles into the ride from Dripping Springs to Marble Falls.
During the downtime on Wednesday, due to the inclement weather, Ride Leader Rand Jenkins reflected on his motivation for riding in Bike Out Hunger.
"One thing that keeps me pedaling is I know I have a choice," Jenkins said. "I don't have to ride hard. I don't have to ride at all. I can simply stop my bike, get in the SAG (Support and Gear vehicle), rest and begin eating. Stopping early is another luxury that is not shared with those in need of food. Heading home early from school or work because of hunger doesn't solve the problem if hunger dwells at home. So, I choose to continue pedaling. Not because I'm trying to mimic their pain, but because by riding, encouraging other riders and raising money for the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, we are actively ending the cycle of hunger."
During the week, area churches provided meals for the cyclists each night, sharing encouragement and stories of the impact the Hunger Offering has made in their regions. Churches included First Baptist Fredericksburg, First Baptist Dripping Springs, First Baptist Marble Falls, First Baptist Temple and First Baptist Corsicana, and at the end of the ride, Dallas Baptist University hosted a closing ceremony.
Tim Randolph, director of missions for the Waco Regional Baptist Association, participated in Bike Out Hunger for the third time to raise more awareness for the Hunger Offering, which directly impacts the community in which he serves. While enjoying being reunited with friends made in years past, Randolph was also pleased to be joined by his son, Joel, a surgical nurse from Colorado.
"Those of us who 'have' really can't understand what it is to not 'have,'" Randolph stated. "Over 30 percent of people are below the poverty line in the Greater Waco area. Instead of making broad statements like, 'We are going to eradicate hunger in Waco,' we instead ask, 'Who is our neighbor and how can we respond to their needs?'"
The Waco Regional Baptist Association receives several grants from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, and has seen great success through the partnership to help food insecure families in their region.
One of the grants they received provided the opportunity for WRBA to hire a Senior Outreach Coordinator who works through the Waco area churches to identify food insecure senior adults. More than 30,000 senior adults are identified as food insecure in the area, many of which have never asked for assistance and do not know the first place to turn for help. On a case-by-case basis, the Association is now able to work with local churches and connect senior adults who are in need of assistance with local food resources.
John Gonzalez, a rider from Houston, found his second year of participation to be eye-opening.
"Since this was my second year riding with the Bike Out Hunger team, I thought I knew what to expect and that I would be fully prepared physically and emotionally for the week," Gonzalez said. "Little did I know that I would be riding side by side with someone who had personally experienced years of hardship and hunger as a part of his family's everyday life. To hear first-hand why my teammate was riding made a lasting impression on me. Waking up the next day to ride 92 miles was easy."
Gonzalez and his teammate made plans to participate as often as possible in the future.
"Last year I made the trip to the starting line alone," he said. "I finished in Wichita Falls as part of a small team. This year, I made it to the start with two Bike Out friends. We finished as part of a family. I can't wait for next year!"
To find out more information on Bike Out Hunger or stay up to date on future events, visit outhunger.org.