By: Sarah McWilliams
This Saturday, riders will head to Long Beach, Calif., to pedal for a purpose. The Tour of Long Beach encourages riders to get out and participate in the five-mile Family Fun Ride, the 31 or 62-mile course and the Cruz Gran Fondo, which is roughly 100 miles. All of the money from the entry fees and fundraising benefits the Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, a non-profit hospital that treats pediatric cancer.
The event started five years ago when Long Beach local Mark Bixby, a chairman for the Downtown Long Beach Association, decided to create a bike festival to promote cycling in the area. One of the doctors at Miller Children’s Hospital heard about the event and asked Bixby if it could benefit the hospital’s pediatric cancer department. The festival and bike tour became an annual event and has had unprecedented growth. This year, event organizers anticipate 3,000 riders, about 800 more than last year.
Sadly, Bixby was killed in a plane crash in 2011, but the hospital and the DLBA still run the event.
“This event has also become a homage to him, keeping his vision alive,” said Renae Furlow, the marketing manager for the hospital. “He really wanted families to get out and be active together.”
The hospital has the same mantra. In a small way, they hope the day’s events inspire families to engage in a more active lifestyle.
The Family Fun Ride accomplishes just that. Families have the chance to get fit together on a loop route that passes through a park and pier. The morning ride is also free to ensure that cost doesn’t deter a family from joining the event.
The 62-mile ride is somewhat competitive, but once you get to the 31-mile ride, it’s no longer a race. The 31-mile course is a tour of Long Beach with plenty of stops and activities along the way. One of the greatest aspects of the tour is that people can see Long Beach’s biking infrastructure firsthand and will hopefully take advantage of it in the future.
The longest ride is the Cruz Gran Fondo, which is about 100 miles. Although there is no declared winner, it is still a competitive race.
“You don’t do 100 miles on a whim,” Furlow joked.
Even though no champion is crowned after the lengthy ride, you can’t top this prize: Everyone receives medals at the finish line from the pediatric cancer patients of Miller Children’s Hospital.
What makes this charity stand out? First, the entire event is underwritten by their sponsor Wells Fargo, which means every dime from registration fees and fundraising goes straight to cancer research. What also sets the charity apart is that while contributions take place locally, they also help on a national level. The Miller Children’s Hospital is part of the Children’s Oncology Group, which shares research across the U.S. with other members. There have been extraordinary advances through COG’s research.
Lastly, the Miller Children’s Hospital also emphasizes safe riding and offers free helmets to everyone participating in the day’s events.
“You don’t have to raise a million dollars or ride 100 miles to make a difference for these kids,” Furlow said. “We just want to reignite healthy habits for the parents and the families. We want people to come regardless of their ability. Ride 5 to 100 and make every pedal count to help these kids that really need it.”
For more information on the Tour of Long Beach visit www.touroflongbeach.com.