The Story of Ride For A Child by Founder Dick Hartung
Our daughter Jill passed away in 1997 at the age of 9 after a 3 ½ -year battle with Osteogenic Sarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. By 2002, I had recovered enough to again lend my support to the organization that had comforted our family on our journey, Candlelighters For Children With Cancer.
Serving on the board of Candlelighters as the VP of Development, I was tasked with the challenge of raising funds for a small, grass-roots organization rich in compassion, purpose, mission, and dedicated volunteers, but like most small non-profits, definitely poor in funding.
The last time I had ridden a bike with any regularity was grade school! However, a number of my friends had ridden in an event called Cycle Oregon (CO), an adventurous one week ride around the state of Oregon, filled with the beauty of Oregon and the challenge of a 500-mile week on a bike. Could I do something like that? I thought maybe I could, but not without the kindness, courage, and inspiration I would need from the example of Jill's life. So, in June of 2002, I purchased my CO registration for the September ride, pumped up the air on the tires of my 10 year-old mountain bike, and started to train.
My ride would be a fundraiser for Candlelighters For Children With Cancer. As a way to keep her alive in our hearts and continue the impact of her life on others, my ride would be dedicated to Jill. My fundraising appeal went out to family, friends, and business associates, most of whom had witnessed the journey of our family through Jill's illness. My ride was a huge success. Not only did I challenged myself and conquer the week, I gave added meaning to Jill's life by enriching the lives of other families impacted by childhood cancer. Those donating to my ride were incredible! My small group of supporters donated over $12,000, at that time 25% of Candlelighters operating budget! We were all patting ourselves on the back and celebrating a win for Jill, the Hartung family, and Candlelighters. I thought I was done. In reality, the ride had just begun.
The next year, as I contemplated whether I would ride and fundraise again, I was encouraged by people around me who wanted to join me. Among others, my partner, two board members, a close friend, and best of all, my 16 year-old daughter Katy, wanted to ride. We all made the commitment, and our team of 1 grew to a team of 7. We asked Candlelighters to help us identify children diagnosed with cancer that would serve as our teammates and honored children. It was an awesome ride, and our team raised over $18,000 to support Candlelighters programs and services. We called the team Ride For A Child.
Ride For A Child has now fielded a team every year since 2002. Our teams now average about 60 to 65 people, including riders, honored children, and our support team. Along the way, many creative and compassionate minds have contributed ideas including corporate sponsors, jerseys and apparel, group camping including tents and camp support, volunteer LMTs, honored kid cards, a kickoff BBQ, and pizza parties with the kids and families, along with a slew of other innovative and imaginative ideas.
Ride For A Child is now going into its 19th year, and has raised over 2.5 million dollars.
Dick Hartung - Founder of Ride For A Child