MORGANTOWN , W.Va.Oh my!That was the thought running through Caroline Kirbys mind last June when she heard that her boyfriend cycled 250 miles across West Virginia to raise money for 4-H camp scholarships.She still thinks that way, but this year shell join him on the journeyseeing the state that shes visited a handful of times in a way that few people have the opportunity to enjoy.
Kirby is a first-year member of Outspoken for 4-H, a cycling group affiliated with West Virginia Universitys Extension Service that pedals to raise money to help send West Virginia children and teens to 4-H camps.
The Outspoken group is composed of 4-Hers, alumni and volunteers who embark on a bike ride through 10 West Virginia counties.The cyclists spend months training, biking hundreds of miles per week leading up to the June event.
On the first day of the ride, the cyclists bike 95 miles.
Its really quite intimidating, but my whole heart is in it,Kirby, a North Carolina third-grade schoolteacher, said.I love working with children and working toward something that they will benefit from.
A veteran rider, 42-year-old Jeff Brandenburg says the benefits of Outspoken go both ways. As a 4-H volunteer, he was inspired when the cyclists visited his county camp four years ago.
It inspired me to set a personal goal,Brandenburg said.I wanted to push myself to achieve something of that magnitude.But, according to Brandenburg, who has a newfound love of nutrition and fitness, the children have always been his motivating factor.
I finally realized what the ride really meant when we rode up to one of the 4-H camp sites and kids lined the streets and people were cheering for us,he said.Seeing those kids, I realized what it meant to help them get to state camps, which is why we help raise money.
The 18 cyclists will launch their 10-county journey at 7:45 a.m. Thursday, June 18, from Virginia Point Park in Kenova, Wayne County.
Around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 21, more than 300 applauding 4-H members will welcome the cyclists when they ride into WVU Jacksons Mill State 4-H Camp near Weston in Lewis County. Their arrival will officially open the weeklong West Virginia Older Members4-H Conference, the birthplace of theOutspoken for 4-Hfundraising event.
Between Thursday and Sunday, the 4-H cyclists will be encouraged by 4-H volunteers and supporters waving motivational signs. WVU Extension agents and 4-H volunteers along the route are supporting”Outspoken for 4-H”by organizing donations, food, lodging and encouraging fans.
At designated stops, the cyclists will be greeted by local 4-Hers and WVU Extension agents. Some of the extended stops will include question-and-answer sessions with local 4-H members.
A medical crew, a bike technician, a snack and drink provider and a crew van accompany the riders at all times.
The cyclistsschedule is:
June 18Wayne, Cabell, Lincoln and Kanawha counties;
June 19Kanawha, Jackson and Wood counties;
June 20Wood, Wirt, Calhoun and Gilmer counties;
June 21Gilmer and Lewis counties.
Each cyclist has pledged to raise a minimum of $500.
The annual bike ride rallies 4-H supporters, alumni and members to make tax-deductible donations to the 4-H Youth Development Program, a WVU Extension Service organization that touches the lives of almost 60,000 West Virginia youths each year.
4-H provides educational programs through clubs, individual projects, county and state camps, after-school programs and special interest groups. Research has shown that, while they have fun and make friends, 4-H youths learn leadership, citizenship and life skills through their individual and group projects.
All tax-deductible contributions will go directly to the program area chosen by donors, who have the option to select 4-H camp scholarships, or other 4-H activities and projects.
To view a video of the riders discussing how 4-H shaped their lives, visit www.ext.wvu.edu and scroll to the multimedia highlights at the bottom of the page.
Donation forms are available at local WVU Extension offices and on the Web ( www.development.ext.wvu.edu/ ).
Completed donation forms may be mailed to: WVU Extension Development, 806 Knapp Hall, P.O. Box 6031, Morgantown WV 26506 -6031.