Cyclists raise more than $9,500 for Special Olympics
by Allison Haver
Organized by the Boone Police Department, the five-member cyclist group has traveled from one end of the Blue Ridge Parkway to the other, to raise money and awareness for North Carolina's Special Olympic athletes.
The five-day, 469-mile bicycle ride began on Tuesday in Waynesboro, Va., and ended in Asheville today.
The fundraising cyclist team rolled into Boone on Friday afternoon, where Mellow Mushroom treating them to a pizza party to show their appreciation for the group's efforts.
"Mellow Mushroom said they wanted to do something for us," Capt. Andy LeBeau with the Boone Police Department said. "So, they said they would feed us when we came into town on Friday."
Four out of the five member group, including LeBeau, Joe Nix, Kevin Wilson and Steve Lambert, were joined by Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford, president of Appalachian Management Service Inc. Harold Tilley, Boone Police Officer Jake Harkey, Special Olympic athletes, family and friends at Mellow Mushroom on Friday.
According to LeBeau, the group had raised more than $9,500 for the cause.
"Our original goal was $3,500," he said. "I'm blown away. People have been really generous."
Early Saturday morning, the riders gathered in the parking lot of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone to set off on the rest of the journey.
The group traveled 101 miles to Asheville, mostly uphill, for their last leg of the ride.
Although the weather was a little chilly and the ride was going to be a long one, the group was eager to finish what they started.
Wilson had a picture of his sister, who has Down syndrome, taped to his bike.
"It's there for whenever I feel like giving up," he said.
Since 1987, law enforcement officers across the state have worked to raise money for Special Olympics and, in 2013, raised more than $1 million through T-shirt sales, corporate donations and various fundraisers.
The money raised provides opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities to receive year-round training activities and funds the costs of the annual games.
One hundred-sixty nations around the world participate in the Special Olympics program.