Thursday, September 16, 2010

from Evanston to Africa

I’m just an old guy (63) with an old bicycle (1978 Peugeot), but I just completed my sixth consecutive North Shore Century. If you’re not familiar with the event, it’s a round trip bicycle ride from Evanston to Kenosha, and it’s sponsored by the Evanston Bike Club.

This year was the 26th consecutive event, and it featured rides of 25,50,62,70 and 100 miles. Being a glutton for punishment, I’ve always signed up for, and completed, the 100 mile event.

I’ve long been a bicycle enthusiast, so stories and events involving bicycles always catch my attention. Yesterday’s edition of The New York Times contained a story by Nicholas Kristof titled “A Boy and a Bicycle(s)”. It’s a heart warming story, and it has a Chicago connection.

World Bicycle Relief was started in Chicago in 2005 by Frederick K.W. Day, a senior executive for SRAM Corporation, the largest bicycle parts company in the United States. Almost immediately, Trek Bicycles also became a sponsor.

The mission of World Bicycle Relief is simple - by providing free bicycles to impoverished people around the world, primarily in Africa, the lives of thousands of people around the world become much easier and safer. By providing hope to impoverished Africans, we also help make OUR lives safer as well, since the insurgent trouble spots around the world often sprout in areas that don’t have anything to lose.

The per capita income of Evanston as of 2008 was $44,699, which is wealthy relative to Illinois and the rest of the country, That figure pales considerably, though, when Evanston is compared to the towns to the immediate north. Kenilworth is the Godzilla of the bunch, weighing in at over $100,000 per capita, and it’s the 4th richest city in America.

We’ve all anguished over the potential closing of the branch libraries and Evanston, like most towns, has had to work very hard to eliminate its budget deficit.

If we set aside our local troubles aside for a minute, though, I’d encourage you to imagine how YOU can personally make the world a much better place for a very modest contribution. If you’re interested, take a look at the World Bicycle Relief website (

You don’t have to as rich as Bono or Oprah to make a significant difference in Africa, but your efforts WILL still be appreciated.

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