Cross-State Alzheimer’s Fundraising Bike Ride Returns to Orangeburg | Local
Cyclists on a cross-state ride to raise money for Alzheimer’s research will pass through Orangeburg on Saturday.
More than 300 runners will participate in this year’s Ride to End ALZ in South Carolina. The 255-mile ride will run from Simpsonville to Mt. Pleasant and is sponsored by the South Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“To me, this ride is pure inspiration,” said Beth Sulkowski, vice president of communications for the Alzheimer’s Association SC Chapter. “I’ve supported this event as a staff member every year since its inception, and it’s just amazing to see the dedication and drive our runners put into it.”
So far, runners have raised $600,000 of the event’s $800,000 goal. Donations can be made online at alz.org/ride.
Each runner receives an individual donation page that can be personalized and linked to their social networks.
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“Some (runners) are offering individual fundraisers,” Sulkowski said. “For example, a horseman is a cabinetmaker and creates a beautiful cup every year that one of his donors will win in a draw.”
Runners will make the trip in three stages: Simpsonville to Newberry on the 8th, Newberry to Orangeburg on the 9th, and Orangeburg to Mt. Pleasant on the 10th.
Participants will start early in the morning and arrive at their destination at 4 p.m. each day. Lunch, dinner and hotel accommodation will be provided for riders at each stop.
Mechanical and medical assistance will be available along the route, as well as rest areas along the route – including one at the North Town Hall.
Riders will arrive in Orangeburg between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday at the Country Inn & Suites on Citadel Road. They will leave for the final leg of the journey at 7 a.m. on Sunday.
Runners and volunteers will be treated to lunch upon arrival by The Legacy of Orangeburg, Edisto Home Care & Hospice, Major Graphics and Edisto Post Acute Care. The dinner will be held at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center, hosted by the Rotary and Lions Clubs of Orangeburg.
Other community members stepped up to support the ride, with Orangeburg Coca-Cola Bottling Co. donating beverages. Several teams are sponsored locally.
The event was born about 14 years ago under the name “A Ride to Remember”. This year will be the first under the national “Ride to End ALZ” banner and will be one of five similar rides across the country, Sulkowski said.
“I experienced Alzheimer’s disease in my own family and I’m passionate about my work,” Sulkowski said. “Ride to End ALZ renews my resolve every year, thanks to the incredible people who ride and volunteer – and the stories of all their loved ones who have been touched by Alzheimer’s or other dementia.”
A virtual ride option, first offered in 2020 during the pandemic, will be offered again this year. Runners will be challenged to fundraise and run the total 252 miles over the entire month, rather than the three-day event.
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Virtual riders will be able to ride anywhere, including on stationary bikes at home. About a quarter of the total runners participating this year will do so virtually, Sulkowski said.
Preparing for the hike takes a lot of practice and preparation.
“It’s not just a three-day race,” Sulkowski said. “It takes weeks or months of preparation, miles and miles of training, and lots of sincere fundraising efforts.”
Some runners only participate in part of the total route, such as Karla Glover, who joins the group for the Orangeburg-Mt. Nice stopover on the trip.
This is Glover’s first year racing in person after two years of virtual driving. For training, she traveled the hilly regions of Orangeburg and Calhoun counties in the heat three or four times a week. She also adjusted her eating and drinking habits.
“If you’re someone who’s already physically active, I’d say it’s totally doable,” Glover said. “You just have to practice.”
Glover is a member of the Orangeburg Cycling Club team. One of her teammates, Marie McLean-Choi, estimated that she and her teammates had covered 1,000 miles each since they started training in March.
Many runners participate in honor of loved ones affected by the disease. A “Why I Ride Wall” allowing runners to put up photos of people they remember will be at the start of the race and will follow the group at each of its stops, including Orangeburg on Saturday.
Glover and McLean-Choi are riding in honor of family members who have lived with the disease.
“Since I first participated in 2014, I have seen this disease affect so many other families,” McLean-Choi said. “It’s only getting worse and there’s no cure. By riding, I can at least help raise money to provide resources for caregivers and funds for research. And I hope I can provide encouragement to those who are confronted with this disease.
McLean-Choi encouraged those who want to participate but aren’t ready to participate in the virtual hike, volunteer or donate.
“There are lots of ways to get involved, whether you’re a cyclist or not,” McLean-Choi said. “We couldn’t do this at all without the amazing team of volunteers who help with rest areas, meals, transportation, etc.”
Volunteers can register for next year’s hike and other events at https://www.alz.org/sc/volunteer.
Runners will continue to accept donations for the event through July 31, but Sulkowski said donations will remain open until the website launches for next year’s race.
Caleb Bozard is a news intern at The Times and Democrat through sponsorship from the South Carolina Press Association Foundation. He is a student at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.