Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Giving back & getting more than you bargained for

My friend Mathew Portell has started an amazing non-profit called Ride for Reading that helps give books to underprivileged children in Nashville. As a teacher he saw first hand how many children do not have any access to books what so ever. (In low income areas, the ratio of books to children is 1 book for every 300 kids. ) Mathew has used his love for cycling to tap into the great community of riders we have here in Nashville for support. He has sponsored races and held book drives and has worked super hard for the past year developing Ride for Reading.

When he announced on NMB that he was organizing another delivery of books to a local school via bicycle I jumped! I had missed the first delivery so I was super excited to be able to make this one. We met up at Fairytales book store which is a local drop off spot for Ride for Reading. Seven riders came out to help deliver the books so we all packed our backbacks, messenger bags and even a bob trailer and got suited up to ride the 10 miles from Riverside Drive in East Nashville over to Bransford ave to the International Newcomer Academy.

The weather could not of been better for a ride. We headed off around 9am and it was sunny and in low 50s. We winded our way through East Nashville down Shelby Street towards Titan Stadium and the Shelby St Pedestrian bridge. We even had the legendary Jam Danver with us to document the ride! We totally had the star treatment. It was like the paparazzi were following us, hanging out of car windows to snap pics of our caravan of book deliverers. After riding over the river we slowly went up hill on Demonbruen and worked our way over to 8th Ave taking a route very akin to the "Old Greg safe route" that annoys some "gotta get somewhere" cyclists. We kept to the lesser traveled streets and rolled down Gail Ave to get to the intersection of 8th Ave and Bransford.

At this point we realized that the bob trailer had thrown a bolt and wouldn't stay properly connected. (hmm I've seen this movie before!) We scoured the Walgreen parking lot assuming we must of just lost the bolt in the last few yards. Finally we had to admit defeat and had Mathew's lovely wife come pick up the bob trailer in her Jeep and follow us the rest of the way (all of about 300 yards) to the school.

When we arrived the entire school was outside waiting for us! Again, total star treatment. We rolled by, slapping the kids hands like we'd all just finished the Tour de France. We brought the bikes in to show the kids and quickly got our loot of books set out in their lunch room. The teachers were going to bring the kids about 4 at a time to each pick out any 2 books they wanted. This was where the day really got good. Sure we all love riding our bikes, but we were not all ready for what we were about to experience. Watching kids eye's light up when you tell them they can have any book they want, and not just one. These kids are all refugees seeking assylum here in the US, many from war stricken areas like Africa so they don't all speak english. Mathew has the gift of communication and they were all excited to get some new books. Each of them would come up to us and thank us on their way back to their classroom. It was an emotional experience and helped put a lot of life into perspective. M worries seem so trivial after hearing what these kids have been through and to see their outlook on life.

Simply amazing.

I am so glad I was able to participate in this great event and support a great cause like Ride for Reading. There are more ways to support people than just opening up your wallet. I know it would not have been anywhere near as rewarding if I had just gave $20 to Mathew and sat at home and watched TV while he delivered the books he's been collecting. I'm looking forward to helping more in the future!

(You can view all the pictures from the day here:
http://rfr2009.jalbum.net/INA%20Donation/ )

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