The second annual Ronald McDonald House Charities Bike Ride Saturday will have it all sorts of participants--professional cyclists, recreational riders, and families riding with Ronald McDonald himself.
“My brother, Brad, chairs the event, which is held every year, so I was talking to another cyclist and said we should really set up a bike ride for the house. It took a couple of years to get it lined up, but last year, we had our inaugural event.”
Seabaugh said registration begins at 5 a.m. “for those last minute-minded people.”
The ride has five options and will start and finish at the Steinberg Ice Rink in Forest Park. The Gran Fondo, new this year, is a timed century ride with rally stops and prizes. It starts at 6:40 a.m. The 100-mile Century, the 65-mile Metric Century, and the 33-mile Fitness Challenge will start at 7 a.m.
“All distance rides, to the extent of their respective distances, go east across the Mississippi River Trail to the Madison County Illinois trail, loop around and return to Forest Park,” Seabaugh said.
“We have a Family Fun Ride with Ronald McDonald that starts at 10:30 a.m. for families with smaller children,” Seabaugh said. “They do a 6-mile loop around Forest Park on the paved trail.”
He said last year they had 141 riders. “As of this morning, we had 313 registered, and we’re expecting 100 more before the ride on Saturday. We’ll have a little over 200 volunteers.”
Those completing their rides will receive an RMHC Finisher’s Medal. Food and drink will be available all day with a bike shop, fitness village, massage tent and kid’s area with fun activities.
Last year’s inaugural ride raised more than $175,000, so hopes are high for this year.
Seabaugh said the stories of the children and their parents make this effort special to him. “It’s something that you can do for people you don’t know. The Ronald McDonald House will not cure anything. The only thing they can cure is the some of the hurt and heartache that families would have being separated from their child who is in a St. Louis hospital, and they live over 50 miles away and can’t afford to be with their child.
“I have five kids,” he said. “I can’t imagine one of them going through something and me not being able to be there with them.”
Frontenac resident Stuart Campbell will be among the hundreds of cyclists Saturday and has been involved with RMHC for several years as a volunteer and board member.
“It’s an incredible organization that does great things,” he said. “One of the things about the house is that it doesn’t discriminate based on people’s income levels or where they live. We’ve had people come through St. Louis and be in car accidents where their child winds up in the hospital. They stay at Ronald McDonald House for an extended period of time.
“These are people who you would not see accessing charitable services,” he said. “But when your kid’s seriously ill in the hospital, you need help. They’re away from their families and friends, and when they’re at the house, they form a support structure with friends and families of other people who are there. They’re able to come back to the house at night and talk to the other families about what is going on with their child and compare stories.”
He said that relieving parents of some stress makes it easier for them to cope with their child’s condition.
“Imagine a mom being with her kid in the hospital all day, then going back to a hotel room by herself versus being with others who are going through the same thing. We’re not made to do that stuff on our own,” Campbell said.
“There have been some studies over the years with kids whose parents were in the Ronald McDonald House,” he said. "While I don’t know the statistics, they found some positive correlation.”
St. Louis has three Ronald McDonald Houses: St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and the newest location which opened last fall on the campus of in Creve Coeur. All together, they provide 59 rooms for families to be close to their sick children. While families are asked to make a donation of $5 per night, no family is ever turned away based on its inability to pay.