Whitman Cycling Team Extends Helping Hand to Community

Serena Runyan

Whitman’s cycling team does more than just ride. The team performs multiple community service events each year, including helping with the local Gran Fondo bike race and teaching bike safety to local elementary school students.
Every fall, the Providence St. Mary Foundation puts on the Gran Fondo, a bike race that raises money for the Cancer Special Needs Fund at the Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center. The funds go toward providing transportation, food, wigs or other needs indicated by cancer patients not covered by Medicaid, Medicare or other health insurance.
There were over 300 participants in this year’s race on Sept. 21. During the event, members of the Whitman cycling team did everything from leading races to helping people with flat tires.
“For the most part, we’re out having fun and enjoying the countryside, making sure everyone’s safe, fed and hydrated,” said Luke Ogden, president of the team.
The Gran Fondo also provides cycling team members with a chance to use their sport for a good cause.
“It’s a great opportunity for the team to give back to the community surrounding us in a way that is connected with our sport,” said sophomore cycler Mackinzie Stanley.
And, barring a couple mishaps, the event is mostly a chance to have a great time and get involved with the Walla Walla community.
“Its a great thing that we do. I really love it,” said Ogden. “It gets us involved in the community, and gets a good word not only about Whitman but the cycling team.”
Unsurprisingly, it seems that all those involved appreciate the team’s presence.
“I hear nothing but great things from both the community participants and the things our team’s riders who participate say,” said junior team member Arika Wieneke.
After the Gran Fondo is over, the team focuses on the annual Bike Rodeo at Edison Elementary School.
“It’s teaching kids basic skills on how to ride a bike, and also some safety skills,” said Ogden.
Team members serve as role model for these beginning cyclists.
“We’re making it so that safety is cool,” said Ogden. “We like to think of ourselves as ambassadors for both the school and cycling in general, because people do look up to us, whether it’s a kid or a college student.”
For Stanley, it serves as a reminder of the team’s ties to the greater community.
“We all started out just like the young kids that come to the clinic, and someone had to teach us how to pedal and how to ride in the bike line and not swerve into cars. I think it’s a duty and privilege to pass on that knowledge,” she said.
These interactions help build the two-way ties that benefit  both Whitman and the Walla Walla community at large.
“This is a great way for the Whitman team to give back for all of the support that the community gives to us,” said Wieneke.
Participating in community service events also helps the members of the team bond with one another and become stronger competitors.
“Doing events like the Bike Rodeo gives us the opportunity to get to know each other away from training and races,” said Wieneke.
And the team certainly isn’t just about training and races.
“It’s great to do something that is bike related but is not riding a bike,” said Ogden. “We’re not just about racing … I think a lot of people see this team as being really aggressive and liking to go fast, but there is a bigger aspect of wanting to get people out on bikes.”
Mainly the team wants to encourage safe bike riding.
“We really want to help people get involved and get excited about riding a bike. You can go a lot of places, and it’s clean. I love seeing new people out on the road, but I want them to be safe, because accidents do happen,” said Ogden.
According to Stanley, helping the Walla Walla community is just another way to connect with a larger network of cyclists everywhere.
“As a biker, there is this feeling of connection to all bikers everywhere,” she said. “And participating in events like this helps confirm that feeling of community.”