I hadn’t ridden a bike since my teens, which was decades ago. I used to love it so much: the freedom, the endurance to get where I was going, and to get home in time for tea; the Sundays spent riding alongside friends out in the English countryside, knowing that nobody had the slightest clue where we were, which didn’t seem to matter so much back in those days. Great adventures were had on that old, yellow Puch Clubmaster bike.
Back in 2012, on the 10th anniversary of Love146, as event manager I was asked to participate in a 100-mile sponsored bike ride in Saratoga Springs, New York, to commemorate a decade of fighting child trafficking and exploitation. The organizers were seasoned riders, as you’d expect of those attempting 100 miles in a day over some challenging terrain. But I was not. Nevertheless, together we decided to attempt this audacious feat to raise awareness and funds for our work. During this middle-aged rush of blood to the head I was reminded of all the joy of childhood cycling, whilst feeling the pain of 50-plus year old muscles and joints screaming in rebellion. But we succeeded, crossing the finish line triumphant with arms in the air. I have held tremendous respect for endurance athletes ever since, and I certainly don’t consider myself one.
Recently, in September of 2017, a team of four riders from Preferred Hotels & Resorts — Brenda Collin, Chris Cox, Tessa Whalley, Simone Mariote — took a three-day fundraising bike ride across France in aid of Love146, in some pretty tough riding conditions. The team rode from Arras to Epernay, heading into the Champagne region, then onto the Rhine Valley and ending in the vineyards of Alsace, covering 550 miles over three days. They endured 5 a.m. starts, puncture repairs, the rain, potholes, peddling up mountains, wrong turns, sharing rooms, the sweat and tears — all to provide funds for children served by Love146.
I want to thank Preferred Hotels & Resorts, which allows their staff to take time off to complete charitable activities and fosters a culture of giving back to society, and especially to the team of riders for their commitment to the work of Love146 over several years.
We are inspired by their grit and determination — qualities that make them a great ally in our mission to end child trafficking and exploitation.
Their ride was so much harder than our modest “century.” On the team’s return from France I met with Brenda Collin to hear about the event, and she regaled me with stories of freedom, camaraderie, endurance and adventure that took me back to my childhood. She reminded me that childhood is not the only time to which these kinds of adventures should be confined. She inspired me to dust off that bike and put myself out there again, to relive my childhood so that trafficked children may yet have an opportunity to live theirs. I may have offered, in another momentary rush of blood to the head, to join them next year should they decide to ride again for Love146. I’d better get training…
So thank you for putting yourselves out there, in the wind and rain, to help trafficked children regain their childhoods. I would encourage anyone who is able to rally friends and colleagues and gather together like-minded people who feel passionately about the safety and welfare of trafficked children, to talk to me directly about how we can work together. Whether you have in mind an audacious undertaking like this, or something a little more sedate, I would love to help. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, although the event is now complete and the riders have returned safely, their fundraising page will be open until the end of November. If you feel moved to reward this effort and support this event further, the link to donate is https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/preferredhotels2017.