The Race for Grace cycling team has a cool cause — children in Haiti — worth enduring Texas heat.By JACKIE BLALOCK ROBINSON
“You know you’re a Texan when … the best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.”
This joke from the book You Know You’re a Texan If... sums up what most people think about Texas heat in August. But neither distance nor the August sun will deter six Race for Grace riders entered in the Hotter’N Hell Hundred Cycling Road Races in Wichita Falls on August 27, 2016.
These six people will proudly ride their bicycles in the heat to raise money for Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. And they want you to join them. One has even dreamed up a way for children to bike locally and raise money for the cause.
The hospital, founded almost 50 years ago, serves as the hub for International Child Care’s health projects for children and families in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The team, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has had about 40-60 riders and raised an average of $50,000 annually. This year’s goal is to get 100 riders to help raise $100,000.
Dr. Scott Hoyer and his wife, Anna, members of Floral Heights UMC in Wichita Falls, have ridden in the race for the past three years. Dr. Hoyer became so passionate about the cause that now he’s on the ICC board of directors, has made two trips to Haiti to help at the hospital and houses out-of-town riders for the race in his home.
Dr. Hoyer bicycles all the time — 50 to 75 miles a week in summer, 25 miles a week the rest of the time — so he was in pretty good shape when he joined the race. For Race for Grace, which goes from 10 to 100 miles, he usually rides 50 miles or 100 miles.
He warns new riders that you can’t just decide to ride 100 miles. He advises new riders to get pillow or gel bike seats because three or four hours “can take a toll on the rear end.”
Fellow riders Ronna and Brad Prickett say the International Child Care cause gave them extra momentum to ride. She coordinates with local people to house riders from out of town. “With so many people coming to town for the HHH, over 12,000, you can imagine it’s hard to get a hotel room in Wichita Falls,” she said.
“Each person who rides in the race gets friends and family to help them raise money or they donate at least $250, and every bit of it goes to support the hospital,” she said.
Another rider, Dr. Jeannine Hatt of Waples Memorial UMC in Denison, is one of the Race for Grace founders and rides in the event with her husband, Dr. Chuck Phelps, and her children. She first climbed onto a heavy bike that her husband bought her for Mother’s Day about 20 years ago.
When she went that first half-mile, her legs burned. But the more she rode, the more conditioned she got. She transitioned to a lightweight road bike and decided to mark the 100-mile course off her bucket list.
“I like getting back in time for lunch, meeting other riders in our tent in Finish Line Village, so my husband and I always rode the 100,” said Dr. Hatt. “Last year, I decided to see how far I could go without falling over!”
Joking aside, “the first 85 miles were OK. I struggled the last few, but with my older son, Ryan, as my coach, I finished. But we always tell riders it is not how far you ride nor how fast you ride, it is how much support you raise for the kids.”
And Dr. Hatt is taking the race to another level.
Riders on the team have varied in age from teens to one “very special 80-year-old,” Dr. Hatt said, but this year she would like to involve more kids, including those from Waples Day School and Project Transformation.
“The kids could have an opportunity to raise small amounts of money from family and friends, then ride their tricycles and bicycles around the church in Race for Grace-style T-shirts,” said Dr. Hatt. “People don’t really care how far you ride, they’re just happy to help the cause”.
Ellen Palmer, that “special 80-year-old” and member of First UMC McKinney, loves what Dr. Hatt is doing with the children. “Having them participate helps the young people understand what mission projects are,” Palmer said. “If we, the church, don’t teach how to raise money for mission, who will?”
Palmer starts her preparation in May by riding her recumbent bike 30 minutes a day. Each month she increases the time 30 minutes to get ready physically. Also on her side: “I’m always mentally ready to ride.”
Palmer has been involved many ways in the race. She has worked as a nurse, in the refreshment tent and has ridden nearly 20 times. This year, she will continue to make it a family affair by riding with her son, the Rev. Burt Palmer of Polk Street UMC in Amarillo, along with grandson Micah and seven other family members from Arkansas.
Palmer and other riders from her church involve the entire congregation in the fundraising by hosting a dinner with entertainment the week before the race. “We tell them to pay what you think it’s worth,” she explained. “And we raise a lot of money.”