By Jennifer Ferguson
On a brisk spring morning in Houston, cyclists flooded the streets of downtown in the name of charity. From first-time families to avid cycling enthusiasts, approximately 4,000 riders gathered at Tranquility Park March 15 for the Fourth Annual Guaranty Bank Tour de Houston.
The Tour de Houston is a recommended ride for the BP MS 150 Bike Tour and is produced by the City of Houston Mayor's Office of Special Events. Proceeds from the event benefit neighborhood parks through the Houston Parks Board. And while the final profits have not yet been calculated, this year's ride was the largest in its history.
"We're pretty excited," said Eileen Quan, event coordinator for the Mayor's Office of Special Events. "It was a great, beautiful day and that really added to the ride."
Cyclists began their rides on McKinney near Louisiana Street and traveled the 20-, 40- or 70-mile route. Upon their return to Tranquility Park, participants were treated to live music, free food and drinks, and information on upcoming rides and other charity events.
Among the charities represented at the park was the American Red Cross. Dory Cayten, assistant director of fund development for the Houston chapter of the American Red Cross, promoted the inaugural ride of the Tour du Rouge coming up Oct. 18, 2008.
This first annual, 538-mile ride from Houston to New Orleans will benefit five Red Cross chapters. Organizers began planning the six-day tour more than a year ago and have been promoting the event at other ride rest stops and finish lines like Tranquility Park.
"I love this," Cayten said. "The cyclists are devoted to the mission and fund raising."
Also promoting a charitable cause was the Houston Golf Association's Shell Houston Open. The SHO tent provided cyclists the opportunity to try their hands at golf while providing them with information for their upcoming event.
Beginning March 31, the week-long golf tournament will raise monies for more than 200 charities including Texas Special Olympics, Make-A-Wish Foundation, American Cancer Society and MS 150.
The BP MS 150 Bike Tour is a two-day ride from Houston to Austin. The upcoming ride (April 12-13) is a fund raising event for the more than 17,000 Texans served by the Lone Star Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. All MS 150 riders raise a minimum of $400 for the cause.
The MS 150 organization not only keeps its own mission in mind. Many of the organization's 30 recommended rides benefit charities and nonprofit causes across the state.
Upcoming recommended rides include the Pedal Power Wildflower Ride in Stonewall April 5 that will benefit the Hill Country Children's Advocacy Center and the Camp For All Hilltop Bike Ride in Burton, also April 5, benefiting Camp For All and The Kiwanis Foundation of Houston. Also, proceeds from the Space Race at Gulf Greyhound Park in Houston April 6 will benefit the Ronald McDonald House.
For more information on the MS 150 Bike Tour visit http://www.ms150.org. There you will also find links to recommended rides. For information regarding the American Red Cross Tour du Rouge visit http://tourdurouge.org or http://shellhoustonopen.com for details on the Shell Houston Open.