Any good fundraising event will only be made better welcoming aboard key community partners.
In just year two of the Beacon Ride (2023 - Ride for Accessible Sports), the good folks over at Sessions Ride Company (The Rolling Circus) expanded the festivites by making the move to Steelworkers Hall and selecting para-athletes involved with adaptive sports as their beneficiary of choice this September.
A fundraiser that was initiated with just six weeks notice twelve months ago to aid a fellow cyclist dealing with health challenges - the group somehow still managed to come through with roughly $25,000 in donated funds in 2022 - organizers looked in a slightly different direction this time around, focusing on the devoted athletes working hand in hand with local para coaches Patti Kitler and Thomas Merritt and others in need of support.
"There is so much to be said for the sports programs that they are running and the lack of funding they receive," said John Lalonde, owner/operator of Sessions and a driving force behind many cycling related initiatives these days in Sudbury.
"They are cobbling together devices to equip their athletes. We're just trying to do anything we can do to help," Lalonde added. "This ride is supposed to be about supporting something local; we are out here trying to raise awareness and funds."
Truth be told, it's hard not to be aware of the colourful riders who have latched on to the Rolling Circus team, the cyclists who are easily noticed with their carnival-like outfitting.
"The Rolling Circus started as a group of friends," explained Lalonde. "At the high level of cycling, it can be very elite and some of the attitudes that come with that are not always super positive."
"Our intention with the Circus was to go out to races and visibly have more fun than everybody else. We want to be competitive but openly not take ourselves too seriously. That has grown over the years and we've picked the right people to be part of the group."
"A lot of very good people within our community have come into our group and allowed us to create events. The Circus is certainly part of Sessions, our shop, but it's also become our advocacy arm."
A year ago, United Steelworkers Local 6500 executive board member Eric Delparte was one of the 200 riders who participated in one of two different distances. This time around, he was manning the main venue to ensure that all organizational needs were looked after as the Steelworkers Hall was donated to the ride organizers as a home base for one and all to gather.
"We're part of this community and love being part of this community," said Delparte, speaking on behalf of the 2700 to 2800 or so union members still located in the nickel city. "When our hall burned down in 2006, we wanted to build another hall and have it be part of the community, a pillar of the community to be able to donate it for beautiful events like this."
Firmly committed to the notion of full and complete inclusivity, the Steelworkers board quickly approved any involvement required from their end in order to ensure the success of Beacon 2023.
"For us to be able to participate in events like this is just a wonderful thing," said Delparte.
The appreciation is evident, along with the excitement of the impending ride as Melissa Lariviere gathers her family - her spouse Andrew, son and Canada Winter Games para participant Logan and older brother Parker - for the 20 kilometre ride last Sunday.
"We started just going out biking with Logan while he trained," said Melissa. "We've enjoyed doing different types of rides - but we heard this one was in support of accessible sport, so we decided to come out."
In fact, the Lariviere clan needed very little in the way of a sales pitch to jump aboard.
"We like being outside, we like being in nature," suggested Melissa. "When you're on a bike, you can go anywhere. You can be in the city or on nature trails or what not."