Rotary defends bike race
I read Kevin Carty's recent letter regarding the annual Jamestown Classic Bike Race organized by the Jamestown Rotary. The letter prompts a response and creates an opportunity to touch on the recent history and purpose of the event, which is the major fund-raiser for our club. It began 32 years ago, and in 10 years, it has grown 10 fold to 800-plus participants and 20 fold in proceeds. It has multiple purposes, which can be characterized by FUNd-raising. It supports many community and international humanitarian projects and promotes a sport for young and old, professional, amateur, healthy, and challenged.
In recent years, contributions have been made to: the beautification project at the fire station, a Veteran's flag trailer, the skateboard park, the Melrose Avenue playground, and a scoreboard for the Lawn Avenue sports fields. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, soccer, baseball, and softball teams have been the beneficiaries of this event. Scholarships have been awarded, local organizations helped, class trips supported, food pantries stocked, Thanksgiving baskets prepared for the needy, and individuals in need quietly served.
Yet, I understand the inconvenience to Jamestowners Mr. Carty mentions in his letter. I believe that the 100-plus Jamestowners, who volunteer to assist with the race, believe their effort is well rewarded.
Race proceeds also benefit an international community. We have made contributions to: the eradication of polio in the world, providing the most basic of human needs such as pure water to communities where the childhood death rate from water born illnesses is appalling; 500-plus wheelchairs have been delivered to Nicaragua as part of the Jamestown-based VOSH mission. Twenty-three homes in southern India have given families stability and an address enabling them to work and contribute back some of their earnings so that another family will have a home. We are in the early stages of creating a literacy program in Ghana, where children are suffering from the most basic of human needs. Our efforts would be impossible if this event remained the small "local" event Mr. Carty notes it once was.
Regarding the impact on local business, several local businesses were visited following the race a couple of years ago by my neighbor. Every restaurant was packed with waiting lines everywhere. During the summer, racers visit the island to learn the racecourse providing further business here.
This event takes a year of planning by a handful of Rotarians. We study every aspect of the event. We have dealt thoroughly with the option of using Ft. Getty for the staging and support of the start and finish. It is ideal for a running event; it would be a disaster for a bike race. It fails basic requirements of the United States Cycling Federation, the sanctioning body for the licensed and professional
races. Further, the concession stand suggestion of Mr. Carty has several pluses and minuses, the most significant of which is the expected negative impact on local restaurants. Rotarians welcome such ideas as they often stand the test of analysis and make for a better event. The Jamestown Rotary Club extends an open invitation to the community to join our members at a regular meeting, learn more of what we are about, and our thinking on the bike race and offer their input accordingly.
The bike race, like every worthwhile endeavor, will never resonate with everyone. It will not, as Mr. Carty notes, be 'universally loved.' Every Rotarian and volunteer, who would prefer spending that fall holiday with family perhaps away for a long weekend or just relaxing at their island home, feel it is worthwhile. Every committee member, who would prefer not adding the annual burden of meetings and effort to our agenda, feels it is worthwhile. When you consider the merits - a scoreboard or scholarship - a wheelchair or a home for a homeless family - or even the grin on the face of a 5- year-old standing on the awards podium receiving a medal, the inconvenience of having to start our trek through town a bit early or having to wait while the pelaton whirls through an intersection seems insignificant.
Stephen Mecca, Jamestown Rotarian