ZACH CRAY (left) and Rich Neal take part in the Autism Awareness Ride on Sunday morning at Olympia Gym and Fitness. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
April 14, 2014WOLFEBORO — For most cyclists, the sight of rain pouring down on the day of a planned ride can be a bit of a downer.
However, it wasn't a problem for the people who gathered at Olympia Gym and Fitness on Sunday morning, April 13.
Although they were pedaling like crazy, they weren't fazed a bit by the pouring rain. Mainly because they never left the comfort of the gym.
For the second year in a row, participants gathered to take part in the Autism Awareness Ride, a three-hour fundraiser event that took place under the safe cover of the Olympia Gym and Fitness roof.
Participants got on the stationary bikes, and with spinning instructors leading the way and the action continued for three hours. Riders had the choice of doing one hour, two hours or all three and organizer Erica Bickford noted that there were a number of people signed up for all three hours.
Bickford's youngest son was diagnosed with a form of autism at three years old and she is always looking for ways to help those who are also dealing with the disorder.
"When I started teaching here, Rick (John) was open to all of my ideas," Bickford said.
So the Autism Awareness Ride was born. Riders come in and make a donation toward the cause and get in their exercise.
Instructors Cindy Fournier and Rich Neal covered the first two hours, while Bickford led the way in the final hour. As Fournier led the riders during the first hour, with music blaring, she reminded them of the most important thing.
"Have some fun with this today," she told the room full of riders.
"I'm really thankful to have some really, really supportive instructors and community members," Bickford said.
All funds raised went to the Governor Wentworth Regional School District to help those dealing with autism, whether to get extra help as needed, to fund a camp or really any autism-related expense.
Being as April is Autism Awareness Month, it was the perfect time to set up the ride. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a broad category of disorders including Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) and Rett Syndrome. ASD causes abnormal brain function, those inflicted often are unable to engage in social activities and display atypical behaviors, such as repetitive movement and speech patters, as well as an aversion to touch.
According to worldautismawarenessday.org, autism affects as many as one in 88 children and is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the world. So much so that more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with diabetes, cancer and AIDS combined. Though there is no medical detection or cure for autism, early diagnosis and intervention can improve outcomes.
And as for all the rain, Bickford pointed out that it was kind of appropriate.
"Spinning was created for people who participate in cycling events, to train in the winter," she said. "Spinning is perfect when it's raining."
In addition to the ride, there was a raffle with numerous prizes donated by local businesses. Event sponsors included Sarah Quinby LMT, Maria Found (Brewster Academy), Harvest Market, Hunter's Shop and Save, Maura Sullivan, Christina Stewart, Healing Frontiers Chiropractic, Wolfeboro Inn, Olympia Gym and Fitness, Erica Bickford LMT and Young Maple Ridge Sugar House.
When all was said and done, after three hours of spinning and an hour of yoga by donation, almost $1,300 was raised.
More information on autism can be found at autismspeaks.org.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or email@example.com