How did you decide to create Ryan's Ride?
John: As a Peninsula Velo member, I was a Cat 3 racer and enjoyed many local races and one of my favorite races was the Burlingame Criterium. Ryan and his twin brother Matthew were our “miracle babies” born after I got diagnosed and survived cancer. We took the twins to the 2003 Burlingame Criterium. We vividly remember how enthralled the boys were as the racers whizzed by with breath-taking speed. Ryan always said, ‘More bikes, more bikes.” Tragically shortly three weeks later, he died of Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC, the sudden and unexpected death of a child over the age of twelve months, similar to SIDS) in July 2003 at age 2.5 years old. I still remember vividly what he said to this day. Ryan’s Ride is the product of our labor of love to memorialize Ryan. He was a gift who we’ll never forget, the great thing now is we’re able to celebrate his life and it’s a very powerful thing.
Michele: Everyday our love for Ryan is always present in our hearts and from this ride we are able to honor him with the smiles and joys of the 500+ children riding and being champions. We are blessed with loving memories of Ryan and through the community’s support of Ryan’s Ride, his legacy lives on providing wonderful memories for families and their kids with the simple joys we all have of riding a bike. Ryan gets to see more bikes, we’re sure he’s smiling at all the bikes.
What makes Ryan's Ride so special?
Michele: During the earlier years, many of the riders were our friends who participated to support us. As the years go, the families see Ryan’s Ride as an opportunity for their children to participate at an athletic fundraiser event designed specifically for kids. Many former Ryan’s Ride participants are now old enough to volunteer at the ride and continue to see the joy of the young riders and to learn to give back to the community. Matthew, Ryan’s twin brother now a high school junior has ramped up his planning on the upcoming ride, also. Monies raised from the ride have reached $800,000, which continues to support cancer programs. We hope some day we can reach the $1 million milestone.
John: Seeing parents engaging with their children and seeing the excitement and smiles of the children champions are joyful to us. In addition to that, there are families who have taken Ryan’s Ride as an event of their own by sharing their own stories with us (lose a child, a sister, celebrating life after surviving cancer). Ryan’s Ride is a symbol of hope for our family and many. We share our story and through reaching out, many of you reach back to us. Together we form a bond through the power of the human connection. It is this bond that helps us provide strength to one another and connects us.
Michele: Almost fifteen years later, the focus of Ryan’s Ride is less about our personal grief and more about the light – our lives are brightened knowing that families are embracing special moments together as we witness on their faces what we ourselves felt watching Matthew (Ryan’s twin brother) as a little boy on a Sunday each June for so many years: enchantment, wonder and delight as their young riders pedal fiercely around the course. We realize that enjoying what we think are the little things in life, one day we’ll look back and realize they were the big things.
Ryan's Ride is now the largest kids' bicycle race in the California or perhaps the country. How do you think it caught on?
John: Ryan’s Ride has just become a community athletic fundraising event specifically for children. Only children 12 & under can participate in Ryan’s Ride. Each rider checks in at the registration booth to pick up the racing bib and goody bag. They ride on the course to thunderous applause and at the end of the ride, they all feel like champions after receiving a medal and a popsicle. The fun continues on at the fun zone where they can win prizes at the various carnival games. There is a magic there, which comes through from the shared experiences of the child rider with their families and friends being their cheerleaders. The child truly feels like a champion. What a great a feeling that is.
How does it feel every year to see everyone working together on the day of the event and what does it mean for you?
Michele: Ryan’s Ride is simply not possible without the support of Pen Velo and their members who become our dedicated volunteers (and we have 200 of them – pre event and at the ride) who lead the charge with us every year. Love fills the air throughout the day. We are so proud to become part of the Pen Velo family and to be part of the Burlingame Criterium in all the previous years. When I see so many volunteers coming together to offer their help at Ryan’s Ride, I see human kindness and gratitude being offered throughout the day and for that our family is deeply grateful.
How did you decide to have Ryan’s Ride without the Criterium this year?
Michele: Pen Velo has been a big supporter of the community and also a long time champion of the spirit behind what Ryan’s Ride creates. There have been inquiries from kids who have ridden in the past, their families, PV members and the community asking if we were going to have Ryan’s Ride this year. Knowing we were not going to have the Burlingame Criterium due to the constructions, we have to rely on the wonderful PV team to look into if we could come together and have a kids’ only event. The answer was an overwhelming yes. I don’t think we can make the ride happen without the help of our friends and the community at Pen Velo. To continue the tradition PV has made a commitment to support this event with the needed volunteers and contributing to the cost for operational support needed. We look forward to the PV members support through volunteering and bringing their children to ride in the 2018 Ryan’s Ride. We hope the transition to a stand-alone event for the 2018 Ryan’s Ride be a success through the wonderful support from the Peninsula Velo team off and on the bike.