NORMAN — A special cycling team and nonprofit health organization will make Norman one of its destinations, as the annual cross country route will include Oklahoma for the first time.
Ride for World Health centers on a 3,700 mile, two-month cross country ride from San Diego to Washington, D.C. The team leaves San Diego today. Participants are college graduates, medical students and health professionals who engage in fundraising efforts in communities along the way and provide basic health education and discussions.
The Bicycle League of Norman, Buchanan Bicycles, Physical Therapy Central and S & B’S Burger Joint will host a solidarity ride with the team on a special route through Norman.
The solidarity ride and team visit to Norman will be April 10, beginning at Buchanan Bicycles, 561 Buchanan Ave., and ending at S&B’S Burger Joint, 102 W. Main St.
“(The solidarity ride) will be a great opportunity for community members to meet people riding across the country and showcase commitment to the cause,” said Jody Watson, NCED Marriott director of Fitness and Health.
Watson will participate in a portion of the national ride, accompanying the team from the starting point in San Diego today to its stop in Phoenix. A Norman resident, she is helping coordinate the Norman ride.
The 15-to-20 mile Norman ride will push off at 5:30 p.m., but participants are encouraged to arrive at 5 p.m. and stay after the ride at S&B to meet the national riders and learn more about the cause R4WH promotes.
“Every evening, wherever we stop, we try to find a school, YMCA, church or medical school where we’ll give talks ranging from something as advanced as foreign policy to something as basic as good hygiene,” said rider and Oklahoma native Erin Blackstock, a Harvard University medical student.
All funds raised by R4WH will benefit Empower and Advance (a curriculum training secondary school graduates in Haiti to be emergency community health care workers) and Village Health Works (clinical programs and community initiatives in Burundi, Africa).
Norman cyclists participating in the ride are asked to donate $25 to R4WH and will receive T-shirts. S&B’S Burger Joint will host a benefit night April 2, donating 10 percent of proceeds to R4WH.
“I’m lucky to have this opportunity, “ Blackstock said. “I love cycling, and I have a passion for world health and supporting the primary goal of the ride.”
Oklahoma will be the best-represented state, with Blackstock, Watson, Norman native and Paul’s Valley dentist Dr. Dana Martin and Blake Middleton of Oklahoma State University making up four of the 15 riders.
“We have great representation on this year’s team. I think that contributed to redirecting the route to Oklahoma,” Martin said. “I’ve been cycling my whole life, and since I’m semi-retired, I was lucky to be able to take two months off to participate.”
Blackstock, a graduate of Jenks High School, said she is particularly excited to visit her home state during the ride, with hopes to generate more Oklahoma students’ interest in participating in the years to come.
“It’s a great two-month adventure,” Blackstock said.
For more information on R4WH, visit www.r4wh.org. For more information on the Norman solidarity ride, call Jody Watson at 826-1152 or Phil Trotter at 306-5136.