Although I do have a very busy day job, I still manage to add to it with organizing various charity events. The recently completed Ride For Exuma was an especially challenging yet rewarding project. Exuma is part of a chain of islands in the Bahamas where I have a winter home. As a part-time resident, it was only natural that I got busy giving back to the wonderful and welcoming community we have enjoyed getting to know these past three years.
Healthcare is a big issue in the Caribbean. With the advent of a new and much-needed hospital, my friend Ash and I, in partnership with Peter Nicholson of Grand Isle Resort, came up with the idea of doing a charity bike ride to fund some of its vital equipment. We reached out to our friends and fellow members of Les Domestiques cycling club, and rounded up a small group of committed donors to ride and support the event.
We drew riders from far and wide, including my friend Chris who owns Velofix and hails from Vancouver. We also managed to get some riders from the US and Nassau to join the fun. As word spread, Steve Bauer – one of the greatest Canadian cyclists of all time – signed on and even donated one of his signature trips, which raised almost $3000 for the cause.
So with an intrepid group of 20 riders, including four locals from Exuma, we headed out on a typically warm and beautiful Saturday morning under the escort of local police on a 70km jaunt. We rode along undulating roads that wound around the coast, giving us views of the unreal turquoise waters Exuma is famous for.
Tyrone Monroe, who hails from Nassau, was as excited as a school boy at having the chance to ride with the great Steve Bauer. He did an amazing job keeping up with the lead group, even though bad cramps near the end brought this burly grown man almost to tears!
We also had two young local men – Shannon and Gary – who, on 40-pound steel mountain bikes, rode the entire 70 kms with us much to our amazement. We were so impressed by their enthusiasm that we committed to donate a bike to each of them as a reward for their tenacity.
We managed to raise over $20,000 which was one of the biggest fundraisers in the islands’ history. The Exuma Foundation set up a hospital fund for us to ensure that the money will be used as the doctors need it, once the hospital is open. And of course you don’t come to the Exumas without enjoying the water, so some of us made sure we got plenty of time swimming with pigs (yes you read that right), petting nurse sharks, boating, paddling, and just lounging in the 85 degree crystal clear waters.
Check out www.rideforexuma.com and maybe next year you will join us!