A Little Goes a Long Way
The Importance of Giving Back
“Through a little effort on our behalf, we can make something great happen,” Pete Garnich, the owner of Knapp’s Cyclery, explains to me quite modestly.
In the all-too lucrative world of small business, it can be hard to find time for some of life’s important things, like helping those less fortunate. But, looking at Knapp’s Cyclery, you might think they have an 8th day in their workweek given to those who need it. Knapp’s works closely with a surprising amount of local organizations, big and small. Their commitment ranges from bike workshops and outings with local schools, to state triathlons, to large-scale charity rides like the 7-day Anchor House Ride for Runaways, or the 3-day Tour de Pink East. Pete speaks fondly of their involvement and passionately about the importance of giving back in any way, noting, “charities wouldn’t exist if you didn’t help them.” So in the spirit of “keeping the circle going,” as Pete puts it, I spoke to a few others involved with bike-related charities to see what they loved about this community.
Robin Morton, before being a founding partner of g4 Productions (Ride for Autism, Tour de Pink East, Philadelphia Marathon, and many more), managed a professional cycling team for 8 years. While the pro events are exciting, she explains, the nonprofit events offer “much more of an emotional attachment, much more of a rewarding experience.” As we talk, it’s easy to see the rewarding aspect in a ride like the Tour de Pink; there’s a varied level of experience ranging from pro riders to cancer survivors new to the biking world. “That part is awe-inspiring,” Robin tells me, clearly impressed with the emotional drive of the riders.
On the technical side, when there’s a ride with such a diverse skill set, the most important thing is safety. That’s where a lot of the event coordination and volunteer work comes in. Mechanical support, food stops, accommodations, and even laundry have to be thought of in advance. Personal interactions are also very much valued at a ride like this, as it’s always a strong bonding experience. This includes those who organize the event, too. According to Robin, “we’ve become more than just a client relationship – we’re friends with so many of these people.”
Co-founder of the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) and the Tour de Pink, Lisa Frank speaks with admirable passion about her organizations. In the early years of the Tour de Pink, Lisa remembers a “grassroots” approach where she called in accommodations along the way, friends drove support vehicles, riders did their own laundry, and they raised maybe $20,000. Now in their 11th year on the East coast (5th on the West), they raise over $1,000,000 a year with the ride.
What Lisa—and all of the other 250 riders, plus more volunteers—loves about the Tour de Pink is that “it’s a ride, not a race.” It’s supportive and fun, not competitive. Lisa tells me a story of one of the pro riders, her so-called “ride angels,” who hung in the back of the pack for the entire three-day ride to make sure a new rider and recent cancer survivor crossed the finish line. This ride angel, Lisa tells me, bawled his eyes out after watching his ride-companion finish her race. I’m also told one of their strongest riders first rode the Tour de Pink only a week out of radiation treatment, with almost no bike experience. Lisa’s stories almost insist upon the belief of a three-day magic spell, making the impossible possible. For everyone involved, these experiences empower and inspire hope, while raising money and spreading awareness.
Anchor House’s Ride for Runaways first started in 1978 as a fundraising opportunity for a few people to open the doors of a dedicated shelter for runaway and homeless teens. While the first riders rode from Jacksonville, Florida to Trenton, New Jersey, the ride now stretches 7 days and 500 miles from Lexington, Virginia to Trenton.
Tim Quinn was packing for his 22nd Ride for Runaways when I got the chance to speak with him. “We get hooked on camaraderie as well as the challenge… I get to ride a bike, which is something I love, and help kids,” he tells me earnestly. Similar to the Tour de Pink, but a bit larger and maybe more competitive, there’s still a great range of skill and passion for the cause. Some of Tim’s best friends were made on the ride, a setting he describes as a “two-wheeled community.” At the Anchor House, “a lot of these kids have never had an adult say they care about them or that they want to help,” so over 200 riders and volunteers can make a huge difference.
For the Ride for Runaways and the Tour de Pink, Knapp’s runs mechanical support, which basically means Pete drives a van and trailer following the riders, fixing whatever might happen along the way. At the Tour de Pink, “everybody knows Pete… they [Knapp’s] care so deeply about the ride and the cause… it resonates out on the road when you have a flat or a bum wheel.” The same goes for the Anchor House ride; for weeks preceding the event, the mechanics at Knapp’s take on all Anchor House riders’ bikes with top priority.
The same dedication that keeps Pete fixing bikes on the road for days at a time also shows through at the mountain bike club Knapp’s coordinates at Bear Tavern Elementary School in Hopewell, where 50-60 kids get together every Thursday at the end of the school year to ride bikes. It’s what you want to see from a bike shop: riders helping everyone try—and eventually love—cycling, a shop owner fixing bikes roadside so a cancer survivor can pedal the last 10 miles of their first century, and a strong collective desire to broaden the circle of charity, however possible.
Donate to the Anchor House through their homepage.