A Cham­pion of Char­i­ties / Rid­ing for a cause with the Cen­tral South Is­land Char­ity Bike Ride

The Cen­tral South Is­land Char­ity Bike Ride has raised and dis­trib­uted nearly $2 mil­lion to 40 com­mu­nity groups since its in­cep­tion in 2005.

Latitude Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS Ruth En­twistle Low

South Can­ter­bury Hos­pice, Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis NZ, Arthri­tis SC, St John NZ, Epilepsy SC, Heart Kids SC, Rid­ing for the Dis­abled, Plun­ket, YMCA, Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis SC, Os­tomy So­ci­ety, Ti­maru Se­nior Cit­i­zens. How all these dis­parate or­gan­i­sa­tions are linked is not im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous, aside from all be­ing char­i­ties of course, un­til you learn the whole lot are re­cip­i­ents of gen­er­ous do­na­tions raised through the pedal power of vol­un­teers who brave the annual Cen­tral South Is­land Char­ity Bike Ride.

The ride, the brain­child of Phil Lau­rie and Mor­rell McFet­rich, came about after the two men had com­pleted a sim­i­lar event in Aus­tralia. The New Zealand ver­sion, like many good ideas, came to fruition while chat­ting with a cou­ple of mates in a small ru­ral pub. The blokes re­alised that there was noth­ing stop­ping them from start­ing such an event in South Can­ter­bury. So, with a lot of en­thu­si­asm and de­ter­mi­na­tion, the first Cen­tral South Is­land Char­ity Bike Ride took place in 2005; 56 riders took part and a whop­ping

$ 27, 200 was raised for Epilepsy South Can­ter­bury. With such an en­cour­ag­ing start the small team were de­ter­mined to make it an annual event.

Fast-for­ward to 2019 and Shane Brook­land, past com­mit­tee chair and elected spokesman for this in­ter­view, proudly speaks of the bike ride’s 15-year his­tory and the ded­i­ca­tion of the com­mit­tee that or­gan­ise and run the event, not to men­tion the pride in the par­tic­i­pants who com­plete the 380 km ride. Shane em­pha­sises that it is very much a team ef­fort to or­gan­ise and run the event. Ev­ery­one gives as they are able and are com­pletely en­gaged with the de­sire to see money raised for the small lo­cal char­i­ties. While South Can­ter­bury Hos­pice is an annual ben­e­fi­ciary, the other re­cip­i­ents of fund­ing are cho­sen by the com­mit­tee through an ap­pli­ca­tion process. The de­ci­sions are made on merit with no guar­an­tee that any group is suc­cess­ful for more than two years con­sec­u­tively. With the ride rais­ing around $ 150,000 each year, Shane has good rea­son to be proud of their ef­forts.

While ev­ery­one in­volved has a lot of fun do­ing it, the real re­ward is in sup­port­ing ‘these char­i­ties do­ing the real heavy lift­ing in the com­mu­nity’.

Shane is quick to stress that the bike ride is not just for elite cy­clists; it is open to any­one will­ing to put in the ef­fort to do the train­ing and ready to en­joy three days of cy­cling through some of New Zealand’s most spec­tac­u­lar scenery. In­clu­siv­ity is cen­tral to their ethos; amongst the par­tic­i­pants there may be some­one who is sight-im­paired or some­one who has MS. Ev­ery sup­port is given to en­sure all cy­clists com­plete the course – ex­pe­ri­enced riders may take on the hard work out in front of their pack to shield the less-ex­pe­ri­enced riders, or cy­clists may get an early morn­ing op­por­tu­nity to com­plete the route they were un­able to fin­ish the day be­fore. The age range of cy­clists com­plet­ing the course starts as young as 14 and goes through to the grand age of 80.

It is a ‘no id­iots al­lowed’ en­vi­ron­ment. With up­wards of 120 cy­clists on the road at any one time there is no room for non­sense. With health and safety an im­per­a­tive, noth­ing is left to chance; the ride is run with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion. Be­fore riders even hit the road, ev­ery bike and hel­met is checked by staff at The Cy­clery in Ti­maru, and if there is an in­ci­dent on the road, bikes and hel­mets must once again be signed off. Ful­ton Ho­gan com­pletes a full traf­fic man­age­ment plan, and it ’s not with­out its com­plex­ity. The ride, be­gin­ning and fin­ish­ing in Ti­maru, ne­go­ti­ates its way along State High­way 1, 8, and 83, pass­ing Lake Tekapo, Pukaki and Ru­atani­wha as well as the Waitaki Val­ley lakes and crosses through Ti­maru, Macken­zie, Wai­mate, and Waitaki Dis­tricts. Riders are grouped into six ap­pro­pri­ate speed and abil­ity re­lated bunches. A timed sched­ule is laid out, and each group sets off with an ap­pro­pri­ate gap be­tween them. The groups have two team lead­ers, ex­pe­ri­enced cy­clists able to con­trol the bunch; a lead ve­hi­cle; a tail ve­hi­cle; and a long tail ve­hi­cle, warn­ing traf­fic they are about to come across cy­clists. All groups can com­mu­ni­cate with each other via high-pow­ered ra­dios. In all there are 22 ve­hi­cles on the road ac­com­pa­ny­ing the cy­clists, in­clud­ing an over­all traf­fic co­or­di­na­tor and a medic.

One of the joys of the bike ride is the whā­nau en­vi­ron­ment cre­ated by this mass of peo­ple all shar­ing the same fo­cus. As Shane ex­plains, ‘There’s sort of this year-long friend­ship with peo­ple that you don’t know that well, but when you’re on that ride they’re as close as fam­ily. Any­one will

The age range of cy­clists com­plet­ing the course starts as young as 14 and goes through to the grand age of 80.

do any­thing for any­one; we’ll fix bikes, strip gear, what­ever to make it hap­pen for those three days. So, there’s a bond that forms amongst all these peo­ple. There’s no doubt about it – it’s un­like any­thing I’ve done…’

The bonds are strength­ened through evening ac­tiv­i­ties at their nightly ac­com­mo­da­tion. At the first night’s ac­com­mo­da­tion at Tekapo Army Base there’s a dance for those with the req­ui­site en­ergy, while skits on the sec­ond night in Kurow are a good-hu­moured, fun way to un­wind after a long day on a bike. At the end of the ride there is a cel­e­bra­tion which in­cludes a talk by one of the char­i­ties re­ceiv­ing fund­ing. It is a re­minder to all just what the bike ride is all about. Shane still re­mem­bers the pow­er­ful­ness of hear­ing a woman share a ‘day in the life of a 12-year-old with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis’. Such was the im­pact that he kicked him­self for not rais­ing more money. The bike ride has since held top spot on his cal­en­dar for 11 years. There are oth­ers too that have re­sponded in a sim­i­lar way, with many riders re­turn­ing year after year.

Ev­ery­one who signs up for the ride, whether cy­clist or sup­port crew, pays their way. This cov­ers all the run­ning ex­penses for the event which means that 100 per cent of do­na­tions goes to the cho­sen char­i­ties. On top of this pay­ment each cy­clist must raise a min­i­mum of $ 500 to be do­nated and it’s here the ride elic­its an in­cred­i­ble out­pour­ing from the general com­mu­nity and South Can­ter­bury busi­nesses. Shane is quick to add, ‘It’s not just money, we steal ve­hi­cles and all sorts of things – we ask for a lot – but we do it shame­lessly be­cause the re­al­ity is that we give the whole lot away.’ The off­shoot of the ride may be in­creased fit­ness, ca­ma­raderie and a whole lot of fun, but al­ways fore­most in the minds of those in­volved is the dra­matic im­pact that their ef­forts can have on those in need in the com­mu­nity.

ABOVE / The flu­o­res­cent jack­ets, with spon­sors' names em­bla­zoned on them, en­sure cy­clists are not only seen when on the road but act as ad­ver­tise­ment for the event when proudly worn by cy­clists any time they are on the road.

LEFT / The scenery the cy­clists en­joy as they pedal the 380 km is un­de­ni­ably some of the best in the coun­try. OP­PO­SITE / The re­cip­i­ents of fund­ing in 2020 are Hos­pice South Can­ter­bury, Pinc & Steel, Life Ed­u­ca­tion SC, Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis SC, YMCA, Plun­ket, Hear­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis NZ.

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