Residents of ADEC’s Tara group home spend a full month counting down the days until Ride-A-Bike, and then they spend another two weeks after the event talking about how much fun they had.
“They just love seeing all the bike riders and families,” said Linda Allen, the home’s manager. “Especially when they realize that the people are out to support them and others with disabilities. I actually get chills and tears in my eyes.”
ADEC operates 14 group homes throughout Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, and many of them either sign up to ride or walk in Ride-A-Bike or ADEC’s new Color Our World 5K, while others opt to stand along the course and cheer for participants.
Ride-A-Bike, now in its 46th year, is the longest-running bike event in northern Indiana and also serves as the largest fundraiser for ADEC, a nonprofit that serves more than 1,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities each year.
“Our goal is to connect the people we serve with their community, and Ride-A-Bike is just one way we do that,” said Donna Belusar, ADEC’s president and CEO. “Ride-A-Bike is much more than a fundraiser. It’s a chance for us to raise awareness in the community about the many great things we do to help people with disabilities realize their full potential and achieve their dreams.”
Linda said she always gets emotional when she watches the residents of her house making signs and then cheering for strangers.
“The riders will wave and smile and say thank you, and they’ll stop and talk with our guys,” Linda said. “We thank them right back for coming out to support us.”
This year’s Ride-A-Bike returns at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Northridge High School with the popular 5, 18, 45 and 65-mile routes that will appeal to casual and competitive cyclists alike.
This year’s event will also feature a colorful twist: A new Color Our World 5K. The Color Our World 5K will begin at 8:30 a.m., with official chip-timing included in the cost of registration. All runners and walkers will receive a packet of color to throw in the air as they cross the starting line and will find lots of fun on the course.
Jessica Koscher, ADEC’s chief development officer, said the Color Our World 5K is a metaphor for the services the nonprofit provides.
“We believe individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve a life of choice and possibility,” she said. “Our community supporters add color into the lives of the people we serve, so we thought a color run would be a fun way to show how much of a difference our donors make.”
Although ADEC receives funding from the government, that money only provides the essentials for the people they serve. For example, Medicaid funding pays for one roundtrip per day. If an individual they serve has a doctor’s appointment, that counts as their one roundtrip. But that appointment may only last an hour or two. If ADEC operated only on government funding, that individual would be forced to sit at home for the rest of the day, twiddling their thumbs.
But that’s not how ADEC works. Jessica Koscher, the chief development officer at ADEC, compared the funding from Medicaid to a black crayon.
“It provides the basics,” she said. “No more, no less.”
Koscher said that because of generous corporate sponsors, 100 percent of all Ride-A-Bike and Color Our World 5K registration fees will go to providing choice and possibility for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Registration and donations help make unfunded programs, like ADEC’s summer camp and transportation, possible.
“When you give to ADEC, you are giving us a full box of crayons,” Koscher said. “You are coloring our world.”
Register online at adecinc.com/bike by May 17. On-site registration will also be available from 4:30-6 p.m. May 18 and 7-7:50 a.m. May 19 at Northridge High School.