The Hospice of the Calumet Area is hosting their annual Hospice Hustle bike ride coming up on September 20, 2015. They have this special ride to raise funds for their nonprofit organization, which helps individuals who are in their final stages of life.
The event is a noncompetitive ride through Southern Lake County. It originally took place in Munster but was moved to Crown Point. Things begin at the Lake County Fair Grounds with a pancake breakfast, then off everyone goes on a beautiful and relaxing ride through the streets to witness summer turn to fall.
“This actually began as a walk 11 years ago,” Craig Harrell Director of Community Relations for the Hospice of the Calumet Area said. “Then suddenly everyone began to have walks. So the following year we added a cycling component. There were no other cycling events in Lake County like ours at all so we stuck strictly to cycling alone.”
As another way to raise funds for the organization, the Hospice Hustle has brought in about $250,000 in the last 10 years. Jenifer Vargo Okamura, Director of Development for the Hospice of the Calumet Area, said that attendance jumped in the last few years.
“We had 364 cyclists and over 50 volunteers in 2014. From 2012 to 2014 it grew by 200 cyclists,” she said. “We’ve really enhanced our outreach and we encourage our sponsors to have their employees participate. We also added a century in 2014 and that brought out more people.”
Word of the ride spread and more people and businesses got involved. Trek Bicycle Store of Schererville made this ride part of the training plan for their beginner riding group called the Joy Riders. They also help to promote the event and the general manager of the store offers a bike clinic on the day of the ride. Along the route, Trek has seasoned cyclists ride so that if help is needed there is a knowledgeable person there.
“We don’t want anyone to have a bad experience. People don’t have to be seasoned riders to be able to participate," Vargo said.
Along the route, there are SAG stops. Each stop has snacks and water and other things that provide riders with a respite. One stop at Buckley Homestead is run by volunteers from Lowell High School.
“We have a lot of people who help us with dinners and luncheons – a more mature crowd. This event gives the younger crowd a chance to help out in an environment that they are comfortable,” Harrell said. “We appreciate all the help. We help lots of people throughout the year. We couldn’t do it without the volunteers.”
Co-Chairs Bill Hasse and Dr. Gustavo Galante have been part of the event for multiple years. Both men are very active with the Hospice of the Calumet Area and secure a majority of the sponsorships for the ride. Hasse Construction provides general supplies as well as SAG vehicles that drive courses all day long to ensure the safety and well-being of participants.
“They help us tremendously. Both belong to cycling groups and are very enthusiastic about our cause,” Harrell said.