Published September 16, 2014
Volume 22, Number 9

Wheels for Meals Ride Supports Meals on Wheels
Wheels for Meals

By Zoe Francis

Meals on Wheels is flipping its well-known moniker to bring bicycle enthusiasts the popular Wheels for Meals Ride.
The sixth annual bike ride and fundraiser on October 18 takes cyclists through the serene vineyards of Livermore on three different routes of varying difficulty, everything from easy to arduous.
“We’re expecting 1,200 riders from around the Bay Area and beyond,” Jessica Albonico, Alameda County Meals on Wheels project coordinator, boasted. “Last year, we had 1,100 riders from 13 states and every reach of the Bay Area. We even had a rider from Sweden.”
“It’s really drastically grown,” she said of the ride. “Six years ago in 2009 when the event debuted, we had 426 riders, and we raised $20,000. This last year, we had almost 1,200 riders, and we raised $165,000. We are proud of that. Our goal is to top $200,000 this year. I think we can do it.”
The fundraising ride is the brainchild of executive director Cindy Houts.
“She and her husband co-founded the Wheels for Meals Ride,” Albonico explained. “They had done the AIDS/LifeCycle and decided why not, let’s give it a shot. What started as a great idea grew to be one of the premier events in the Tri-Valley.”
The ride raises money for Alameda County Meals on Wheels, a group founded in 1987 to raise money for the five Meals on Wheels providers in Alameda County. Each program has delivery drivers and volunteers who deliver meals to homebound seniors, as well as provide companionship and safety wellness checks.
The five Alameda County programs deliver an impressive 2,100 hot, nutritious meals daily to homebound seniors.
“Each of the (five) programs provides meals to a different area in the county,” she said. “Our organization was created because only about half of funds necessary to run these programs is provided through government funding. The other half needs to be raised locally. We help bridge the funding gap.”
The Wheels for Meals Ride turned out to be an incredibly fun and effective way to raise much-needed funds for a nonprofit that provides such critical support for senior citizens.
All routes start and end at Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area in Pleasanton. The ride offers an easy 15-mile route for kids and beginners, a more strenuous 35-mile route and a 70-mile route that takes seasoned cyclists over Patterson Pass and back via the Tesla summit.
“It’s a ride through the beautiful Livermore Valley vineyards,” Albonico said. “It’s more than 100 miles of terrain with three different rides. It’s really for everybody. There’s something for the whole family.”
There are registration fees for each route, but the bulk of money comes from peer-to-peer fundraising. The registration website offers handy tools to make fundraising easy through e-mail and social media.
“We strongly encourage that everyone fundraise $150 per rider,” she noted. “A vast majority of the money we raise comes from individual riders and fundraisers. We make it worth their while. We have great perks and prizes for all their fundraising efforts.”
Riders who hit the minimum requested fundraising amount get fun prizes like water bottles and hats, while top fundraisers, called Hunger Heroes, get extra-special perks such as free front-row parking on ride day, a special jersey, a chance to win airline tickets and more.
The routes are fully supported with safety personnel and bike repair, plus fun movie-themed rest stops.
“Each rest stop is an excuse for a little party,” Albonico said. “After the ride, everyone comes back for our post-ride barbecue, live ‘80s rock band, vendor booths, refreshments and massages. We really go above and beyond to make it a fun experience.”
Learn more about the Wheels for Meals Ride and register online at wheelsformealsride.com.


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