Hungry Lion Bike Tour 2017
We are approaching one of my favorite times of year where the brilliance of the fall colors changes the landscape of the Deerfield valley and all of New England. It hints of the winter to come with skis and snowshoes and studded snows… but not before I take a few more great spins through the hills and valleys on my two wheels and not before I do my part to raise some funds for an important cause in our community – combatting hunger. The Hungry Lion Bike Tour, sponsored by the Whitingham-Halifax Lions, will be 6 years old when riders hit the road on September 30th. Over the years, riders from throughout the northeast and as far as Missouri have joined me and other local cyclists in a fun-filled day including a challenging ride through the fall foliage, rest stops with plenty of options to refuel and a celebration with music, food and more. All the proceeds from the event are used to support the Lions holiday food basket program and other important initiatives in the local community.
If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be spinning my wheels for meals, for over 50 miles, with more than a little elevation gain, I would have told you, “think again”. I hadn’t been on my bike in years and riding the flats of long island, where I grew up, was a bit less intimidating than hills that made me breath heavy just walking up! So, for the first few Hungry Lions, I was boots on the ground support; prepping, shopping, cooking, serving our riders and feeling good about our work. But I started to feel the calling to do more, in particular, to raise more funds for the cause. It’s hard to ask people to donate to an event you are organizing but asking friends and family to support your efforts to get more fit AND raise money is another story. So, encouraged by other cyclists in the area, I took to the road on a second-hand bike and began to ride. It was hard and sometimes I had to walk my bike up the hills but I think I began to fall in love. Riding is a great way to get a front row seat to the beauty that surrounds us in this area – riding past the horses and cows and rivers and lakes, sort of makes me forget the burning in my quads and heavy breathing… And usually, when you get to the top of the hill, you’re rewarded with a pretty amazing downhill!
So, this year marks my 4th Hungry Lion as a rider and I am excited to do it again, along side friends from out of town and folks I think of as my Vermont family. In addition to entry fees for riders, we are gratefully supported by many of our local businesses as sponsors for the event. And about half of our funds come from private donations on behalf of our riders. I’m pleased to report that my own “people” have contributed over $6000 over the last 3 years and I’m shooting to get to the $8000 mark after the 2017 ride. For me, becoming a Hungry Lion rider has not only gotten me healthier but it has also increased my own gratitude for the support I have in my life and has allowed me to do just a bit in living up to the Lion’s motto, “We Serve”.
So, why is hunger relief such an important initiative in our community? The truth is hunger affects nearly one in five Vermonters but people don’t see it because so many hungry people are very private about it. Hunger and food insecurity are definitely a problem in our community. Fortunately, we can do something about it! We have been grateful to begin working with the local Rotary Club in the last few years to expand the reach of our holiday food basket program. We’ve also been able to use some of our funds to help support the local Food Banks. We are continually looking for new ways to utilize resources to help support our community. The HLBT has become our greatest source of funding for these initiatives.
The Hungry Lion Bike Tour hosts 4 different distance rides - 10 miles (part dirt), 35 miles, 55 miles and the big ride, 75 miles. If you are a rider, please consider joining us! If you know cyclists, encourage them! If you’re interested in becoming involved in some way and for additional information, visit our website hungrylionbiketour.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Miller is a member & President of the Whitingham- Halifax Lions Club