Friday, May 3, 2013

Community supports BIKE HIKE

News to Know
 by Kelly Caldwell


Driving around during early spring, you can't help but notice "We Support BIKE HIKE" signs in front of businesses  throughout Randolph County. But, have you ever stopped to ask what the heck is a "BIKE HIKE"

Bike Hike, a one-mile ride or walk, is the primary fundraiser for the Randolph County Learning Center that occurs the third weekend in May  every year. Now that you know what Bike Hike is, you are probably wondering what the Randolph County Learning Center is.
In the early 1970s, parents and local supporters wanted to create a place for intelluctually disabled adults. The group organized the ARC of Randolph County and in 1976 the first BIKE HIKE was hosted to raise matching funds to open the Randolph County Learning Center.

The BIKE HIKE has continued to be the primary fundraiser for the Learning Center ever since.

"It amazes me the community support we receive for the Learning Center each year," Robin Hall said.

Local funding is vital for RCLC due to the continual downward spiral of state funding.
"These local funds keep the center vital and the local support year round is what makes RCLC a part of the community," Hall said. 

People attending the Randolph County Learning Center are very active in the community participating in things like Bingo at Lakeside; movies at Community Life Church, volunteering at Brown Bag Buddies and Christain Service Center, visiting local nursing homes, playing basketball at the Recreation Center, going to the library, visiting Camp ACSSA several times a year, fishing in local lakes and swimming during the summer, just to name a few. 

"Our community gives to RCLC and we in turn participate in our community and give back," Hall said. 

The local school systems have always supported BIKE HIKE and the Learning Center but in recent years, the students have taken a more active role.
"It started with Robbie Benefield when she was at Handley Middle School," Hall said. "She would bring students over to the Learning Center to interact with our people. It grew from there."

Now, Meredith Sears and her community studies class come to the Learning Center each Friday in the fall. 

"It does so much for my students," Sears said. "The first group I brought over were apprehensive at first, because it was unfamiliar. But, within five minutes that melted away."
The evolution of the education system  has changed through the years as well with the implementation of No Child Left Behind and all students are in the same class rooms.
"We had a student at Handley that touched us all," Amy Fetner, vice-principal of Handley High School, said. "OJ was always smiling and loved to dance."

OJ Moody graduated from Handley when he was 21 and then started going to the Learning Center. He passed away in 2010, but his memory lives on. Not only with his family that still lives in Roanoke, but  also with OJ Moody Day, Handley High Schools Field Day that raises money for BIKE HIKE. 

"We charge the students $5 to attend OJ Moody Day, but we also make sure they realize that is their donation to the Randolph County Learning Center." Fetner said. 

OJ Moody Day is May 3rd at 2:30 p.m. the community is invited to the annual BIKE HIKE Boogie at Handley's Wright Field. Roanoke City Schools have been active community partners with the Randolph County Learning Center for years either by raising money during BIKE HIKE or visiting the people that go to the Learning Center. 

Last year, Roanoke City Schools raised $19,000 of the $84,000 raised for BIKE HIKE and this year the same will be true. 

"We love the participation of the schools," Hall said. "This year the county schools are taking a more active role as well.

Hall went on to say Randolph County Schools Superintendent Rance Kirby has committed to dying his hair hot pink if the schools meet their fundraising goals.
"It takes the whole community supporting us to continue our work," Hall said. "We have re-envisioned BIKE HIKE several times since 1976 and we strive to keep it something the community wants to support."

Along with the WELR BIKE HIKE Warm Up on May 10, there are numerous mini fundraisers leading up to the May 18th ride/walk. 

A new addition in recent years that has caused major bragging rights within Randolph County is the Mullet Toss associated with the Warm Up on May 10. Last year, the Randolph County Courthouse Team won the contest and will be back to defend its title along with 2011 winner Handley High School. Other teams that have committed to the Mullet Toss include TEC, Alabama Power, A&E Heating & Air and Emerging Home Care Pharmacy. Chris Hammond will be on hand to judge the competition and make sure rules are followed which include kissing the mullet prior to tossing and dressing in beach attire.


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