Guest blogger: Steve O’Malley
Habitat 500 rider and supporter
My name is Steve O’Malley, I’m 62 years old, and this year’s Habitat 500 will be my 22nd year in a row!
The Habitat 500 riders and volunteers have become family that I see once a year. About two thirds of the riders and volunteers come back almost every year. We’ve watched each other grow older, our children become adults, couples have babies, and many families ride or volunteer support.
I’m proud to say that my oldest son rode twice and my dear sister, Deidre Schmidt, has committed to this ride for three years. I am also planning to see one of my closest friends join us for his 23rd year on the Habitat 500 after recovering from cancer surgery this spring.
Where else can you take a week off from work, raise money for a great cause and ride your bike with so many great people? No e-mails or work obligations; instead, you connect with people making a difference in our world. We start each day with church volunteers feeding us breakfast and end the day with another church providing dinner (sometimes a potluck). And our fundraising support is provided to people in need of a home regardless of faith or religion.
I believe that each of us has a responsibility for service. This ride is an opportunity to fulfill the reminder by Marion Wright Edleman that “Service is the rent that we pay for living.” Most of us are blessed with relative abundance and the Habitat 500 is an opportunity to support and work with those in need.
While the riding distance can present a great physical challenge and achievement, it is not a race. More than thirty volunteers provide amazing rest stop support every 15-20 miles with food, treats and drinks. And there are volunteers who can provide a SAG (Support and Gear) vehicle ride to get you back if you just can’t complete the day’s ride because of injury or fatigue, so you’re guaranteed to reach the finish line.
One challenge is raising the money for the ride. Even after 21 years, I struggle to mail my pledge request letters. But if you simply take the time to ask friends, neighbors, family, colleagues, and businesses to contribute a small amount to support your participation, you will be amazed how many are impressed that you would commit your time to complete the ride and to help build homes.
The relatively small amount that you need to raise is less than you would have to pay a bike touring company for a fully supported bike ride. And instead of paying for your ride, you are raising money so that someone you may never meet will be able to live in a decent affordable home.
This event gives you the opportunity to support the work of your own local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, while taking a week off from your everyday life to simply enjoy bike riding with the best support you could find from any event.
Please join us!
About Habitat 500
Now entering its 27th year, the Habitat 500 is a bicycle ride (not race) and fundraiser that covers up to 500 miles over the course of 6 days. Each rider raises funds from family, friends, businesses, and church groups and designates the Habitat for Humanity affiliates they wish to support (both locally and around the world). The Habitat 500 is coordinated by Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota.