By NATHAN HOWELL | Staff Writer
pelham- Children’s cancer organization Smile-A-Mile is hosting its Ride of Love event at Oak Mountain State Park on September 25.
The event is an opportunity to raise money for the organization to support its efforts in providing resources and assistance to children and families dealing with childhood cancer.
“The Ride of Love is a very special event that raises money for Smile-A-Mile. Over the years, the Ride of Love has grown into much more than a fundraiser,” reads a press release from the organization. “It’s a tradition and part of our programming. Traditionally, cyclists stay together as a group for the entire ride, cycling more than 250 miles to ride to the On-Therapy Family Camp on Lake Martin to be greeted by cheering children and families.
According to Special Events Director Katie Langley, this particular event will see a change of location and give guests an additional opportunity to discover new areas of the park.
“We’ve been around for more than 35 years, providing programs and support to families on the childhood cancer journey,” Langley said. “In 2017, we built the Smile-A-Mile Place in the Parkside neighborhood. We are now 3 blocks from Children’s of Alabama and we are in the hospital several times a week, all to help families on this journey.”
The ride is usually a 150-mile trek, but due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some changes had to be made for the event to go ahead.
“It’s been an annual fundraiser that we had years before my time. It’s typically 150 miles from Smile-A-Mile Place to Children’s Harbor where we host our summer camps,” Langley said. “We weren’t able to hold our therapy camp where we would normally drive to. We’re just looking for some different options this year and our cycling community has been giving us feedback this year for options to keep everyone safe and to cycle and raise money. “
Langley said the Ride of Love would coincide with the organization’s family day at the park. Cyclists participating in the event will have the opportunity to set their own distance and times.
The 7 mile bike path along John Findley Drive will be used for the ride. Organizers will use the Discover Shelby Pavilion along Terrace Drive as the home base for the event, where registration, lunch, and ride start and finish will take place. There will also be a bicycle repair shop and medical personnel on site in case of an emergency.
Smile-A-Mile offers personal and virtual registration options.
In-person registration costs $50 and comes with a T-shirt, OMSP admission, and lunch. Virtual registration costs $25 and also comes with a T-shirt.
Smile-A-Mile started more than 35 years ago with just one summer camp for children in Alabama with cancer. Over the years, we have grown into a year-round program serving children and their families from diagnosis and through the years after treatment. Our goal is to bring hope to these families on their cancer journey,” said the Smile-A-Mile website.
Each participant in the ride is asked to raise $250, which will go toward supporting these programs and initiatives.
“We ask our riders when they sign up to commit to raise at least $250 to cover our programming,” Langley explained. “We have a lot of people who are returning riders going out and raising more money. We hope we can organize a successful event this year. Last year we tried to postpone and do something alternative and had to cancel altogether. We are delighted that somehow we can have it.”
Visit Smileamile.com to sign up for the ride and for more information.