Serving the Community through Fitness—The Ride: Tech Challenge

By Leah Fisher Nyfeler – August 1, 2013

There are a lot of fit people in Austin doing amazing workouts. Quite a few of those folks opt to tie in fundraising to their fitness. Just yesterday, swimmers took to the water, covering a 10K or 10-mile route down Lake Austin to raise money for Colin’s Hope. This September 1, cyclists will participate in The Ride: Tech Challenge, a corporate team fundraiser to benefit the Austin Sunshine Camps.

Austin Sunshine Camps is a local nonprofit that provides a summer camp experience at no cost to qualifying low-income families. If you’re a parent who was able to provide that fun, enriching experience for a child this summer, you know the benefits that come with time away from home in a new setting complete with new people and fresh exposures. One of the satisfying things about donating to Austin Sunshine camps is that “wonderful results come from very modest gifts,” said Bruce Walker, a donor featured in the organization’s video overview created by I Live Here, I Give Here.

Austin Sunshine Camps Community Needs Spotlight from I Live Here, I Give Here on Vimeo.

The Ride: Tech Challenge involves teams of ten riders, all of whom work for the same company.  Each team member will ride 2.5 miles, which comes to a total of 50 laps on the half-mile track at The Driveway, Austin’s premier cycling course located in east Austin. An interesting twist is that two bikes are provided to each team—this ensures that no organization has the advantage of a superior bike and that handing off to (and adjusting for) each rider will factor into the finish time. Every team is encouraged to raise $1,000 per rider, and that money will go to benefit the Austin Sunshine Camps.

Strength to Serve is the organization behind this marriage of fitness and philanthropy, with a goal to “look for unique opportunities to foster community formation through physically challenging training and events that raise money and awareness for life-giving nonprofits.”  They teamed with Pure Austin (which provided training classes) and Holland Racing (the company behind the popular, competitive cycling series at its facility, The Driveway, a racing track for both motor vehicles and bicycles).  In an interesting side note, The Ride: Tech Challenge was inspired by the Little 500 at Indiana University, which, in turn, inspired the classic cycling movie, Breaking Away (1979).

Several companies have taken the challenge:  Google, HomeAway, BazaarVoice, and Headspring.  Brian Sharples, HomeAway’s CEO, and Ted Boeglin, Google’s coordinator for the event, answered some questions about participating in The Ride: Tech Challenge.

What made you decide to put together a team for The Ride? 

Sharples:  We were approached by Strength to Serve shortly after wrapping up a month-long internal campaign promoting the benefits of alternative transportation. HomeAway has a number of employees that ride their bicycles to work and we spent the month of May celebrating this fact, so it was perfect timing. Additionally, our employees are interested in supporting organizations that benefit children's well-being, so this event seemed like the perfect marriage of our fitness and philanthropic interests.

Boeglin:  We love the work Austin Sunshine Camps does in the Austin community. It's important to our company to enrich the lives of local Austinites. When Jeremy at Strength to Serve proposed the idea, we thought it was a genius way to blend personal wellness with local charity. On top of that, we think The Ride's format encourages healthy competition between great local companies!

Tell me a little bit about your team. 

Sharples:  Interestingly, our team is made up of a group of employees that hadn't met prior to this event. One person is a competitive cyclist and some of the others ride regularly to work, or for fun. However, I think many of our riders just wanted to join the team to be involved with a fun event that helps support a great cause.

Boeglin:  Our team has a mixture of cycling experience; some of our riders race competitively and others are new to the sport. We asked our local office for volunteers and had amazing response. Collectively, the team was passionate about personal fitness and contributing to Austin Sunshine Camps.

Have you trained for this? If so, what did you do?  If not, why not? 

Sharples:  We didn't officially "train"—we were born ready!

Our expectations for race day are just to show up and have fun. I think it's great that events like these can bring employees from different parts of our company together to share in a memorable experience. Plus, win or lose, we can be proud that they helped raise awareness and funds for a very worthy cause.

Boeglin:  I'm coordinating the event for Google, but I'm not competing. I was a competitive cyclist in college, so I have a passion for the sport. We actually modeled the event after a race I participated in during college – The Little 500 at Indiana University.

The first priority is to raise money for Austin Sunshine Camps. After that, I want all the participants to have fun! The Ride is about community and healthy competition.

You can help Austin Sunshine Camps by donating to the teams participating (see the links provided to individual team pages on the Strength to Serve website).  And come out to The Driveway to watch the fun on Saturday, September 1; the relay starts at 8 a.m. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll be inspired to put together your own company team for next year.


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