The third annual Pedal the Petrified bike tour on Sept. 19 raised $23,289 for Northland Pioneer College student scholarships, double the amount raised by the event in 2014.
Produced by NPC Friends and Family, the non-profit alliance that supports NPC students and programs, Pedal the Petrified enjoyed the support of numerous sponsors and volunteers. Summit Healthcare and its High Desert Health Clinic was a major corporate sponsor, and also provided their mobile first aid station. The historic La Posada Hotel also provided a principal sponsorship.
Nine community members and over 45 college employees were instrumental in making the event such a huge success, noted Ride Director Lisa Jayne. Executive Director of NPC Friends and Family, Betsyann Wilson echoed Jayne’s sentiment. “We cannot thank our volunteers enough. It takes great dedication to get out of bed in the pre-dawn hours, on a Saturday, and work all day for a cause,” she stated.
The ride participants shared Wilson’s appreciation for the volunteers through their unanimously positive feedback surveys. Ride Director Lisa Jayne noted, “A man came up to me at the ride and asked me where we ever found so many wonderful, friendly people to volunteer!”
This year’s event illustrates huge growth in the popularity of the ride. Started in 2013 as part of the college’s 40th Anniversary celebration, the first Pedal the Petrified hosted 45 riders, while 81 took part in 2014. Over 200 registered for Pedal the Petrified 2015, and 186 rode. They ranged in age from 12 to 74, with an average age of 52. Of the two tour options, two-thirds rode the 60-mile route. Over 56 percent hailed from locations across the Phoenix metro area and Tucson, and another 20 percent came from outside Navajo and Apache counties, including riders from as far away as Colorado, Washington state and North Carolina!
“I really wanted to make this into a destination event,” Wilson remarked. “For it to be as much about scholarships as it was about promoting our beautiful region and getting people to come back and spend their vacation time here.”
She gratefully acknowledges the help of a particular volunteer. “Bill Waters, a gentleman from Flagstaff who rode with us last year, kind of adopted us and our cause,” Wilson laughs. “Bill and his wife Camille were literally our foot soldiers. They visited just about every bike shop in Flagstaff, Sedona, the West Valley and Tucson. Bill assigned me to take on the East Valley, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and this direct approach really paid off!”
A special highlight of this year’s ride was the start of the 60-mile tour. Shortly before the ride, a registrant contacted Wilson explaining that his son had recently returned from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. The father hoped that his son could still register to ride with him and his daughter. “I called the ride director and we agreed that this young man should just be our guest,” explained Wilson. “We wanted to honor him for his service, so we asked him if he would feel comfortable leading off the riders. We invited any other veterans who wanted to join him to do so.” Staff Sgt. Justin Zumwalde, 26, of the United States Marines carried the American flag, and was joined by seven other vets in leading the first flight of approximately 120 sixty-mile riders onto the course as the national anthem played.
Wilson and Jayne also acknowledged the partnership of the Petrified Forest National Park. “This is an annual event for us now,” Jayne noted, adding that the park has already agreed to Sept. 17, 2016 for next year’s Pedal the Petrified. Wilson reports that she will be announcing some exciting new options for riders in 2016, with registration for this year’s participants opening shortly after the first of the year, followed by open registration.
“The most important part of this year’s ride, other than everyone having a fun and safe trip, was the scholarships raised,” Wilson stated. “I tell everyone our NPC students are the finest and bravest you will ever meet. They have a powerful desire to improve their lives through education. They are not constrained by lack of talent or ability, but financial barriers are a tremendous challenge. Events like Pedal the Petrified help us to help them in ways that are truly life-changing.”
To learn more about NPC Friends and Family, please visit www.npcfriendsfamily.org. Donations to this nonprofit organization are tax-deductible.