For the past 20 years, Bike for Tikes, an event part of Falcon Miracles has biked each year 180 miles for the children. Leaving from Bowling Green, bikers travel down to Cincinnati staying the night at a local venue. The next morning they set out for the next three days to bike back to Bowling Green. Stopping for breaks, camping out at high schools and churches all while learning a dance, fundraising and encouraging each other along the way.
Assistant Director of Bike for Tikes, Brandon Bell is going on his second year of participation with Falcon Miracles. “My first year was last year as a sophomore. I served as the Corporate Partnership Chair for Bike for Tikes and this year as a junior I was the Assistant Director … To me this all means doing something bigger than yourself. And doing within all of your power to make sure these kids can have the best lives possible. I know for me and many others, Falcon miracles gives us a sense of purpose and belonging on campus. This organization gives you some of the best friends and memories you could ask for, all while working collectively toward one goal. And that goal is saving the lives of the children at Mercy Children’s Hospital,” He said.
Participants start training early in the academic school year taking advantage of the warm weather. All bikers are broken into teams led by the Steering Committee, then encouraged and taught how to train up until the event. Training includes going to the recreation center or biking outside. During the event, bikers have to keep themselves motivated and encouraged to make the long haul.
“Think like Mr. Rogers would want you to think or how Bob Ross would want you to think. There’s going to be moments where you just want to give in and say ‘This is too much for me.’ But instead if you turn your thoughts into ‘This is hard but I’m going to come out of this and imagine the good I’m doing by raising awareness’ it really helps push you through the hard moments,” Logistics Chair Dylan Phillips said.
Through long hours of training and preparation, participants are also fundraising along the way. Needing to raise the minimum of $500 to take part, the bikers get creative and tactical when planning fundraising.
“There are a lot of people willing to donate. It's just all about getting there. That you are posting enough on social media, getting the word to everyone and letting them know what their donations go to,” Corporate Partnership Chair Michael Dee said.
However, throughout the year the steering team contributes ways to fundraise in various ways.
“This year I’m creating a challenge on my social media where if I raise $1000 by the first weekend of April, I’m going to do the Hot One Wings Challenge while having all the core committee film me asking questions whether personal or Falcon Miracles related. And then we will live stream it on the Bike for Tikes accounts,” he said.
Biking throughout Ohio takes a wide community further than Bowling Green. Throughout the three days the bikers have to be fed, kept safe and given a place to sleep. Throughout the year Logistics Chairs take care of notifying cities and planning with local law enforcement.
“There is one town in particular, Quincy that is always fun to ride through. A bunch of people from the community including the mayor clap us in, put signs up, and even provide us with a ton of food. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and it is such huge encouragement for us,” Logistics Chair Kayla Valente said.
Third-year biking participant and this year’s Corporate Partnership Chair Molly Ernst has similar responsibilities to preparing for the event. She, alongside Dee, are responsible for managing businesses giving donations of supplies and food.
“I can say Bike for Tikes weekend is always the best weekend of the year. Last year I got to bond with my team and so many other bikers it was absolutely amazing. The connections made are so special and being able to build those bonds keeps bringing me back,” Ernst said.
Biking through communities, hearing alumni stories and learning the dance is a short list of all bikers are able to do.
“My favorite part is getting to bond with the Miracle Kids. They are the reason we do this and they are some of the coolest kids I know. Getting to see them at stops, send-offs and biker runs cheering us on is so rewarding. Their smiling faces make all the struggles during the ride worth it,” she said.
For participants Bike for Tikes is not just any marathon but a sense of community, belonging and purpose. Students are given another picture on the hard realities of another's life and then given an opportunity to help.
“For me Falcon Miracles has given me something greater than myself to work for. I have met so many amazing people through this organization that continue to inspire me everyday. And if you talk to anyone on the leadership team about their why you will understand why they put in all the work they do,” Valente said.