CHARLESTON — Six years ago 20 cyclists came together to ride from the upstate to the coast to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s research, collecting $16,000 for their efforts, creating a trend that has grown to staggering numbers in a short period of time.
“This year we had 220 riders which is incredible growth for an event like this one over such a short span of time,” said Ashton Houghton, vice president of development for the Alzheimer’s Association’s South Carolina chapter. “This year we’ve raised $176,000 so far and we’re still hopeful to hit $200,000 by the end of the year. Each year the number of riders and the amount raised has pretty much doubled.”
Houghton, who like so many others in the 2014 Ride to Remember held July 18-20, has been directly affected by the disease, losing her grandmother to early onset Alzheimer’s at age 59. But she doesn’t just work in the field, it means more than that, a theme which ran true through the entire field.
“I do work full time for the association but it’s a true passion of mine, going back to my grandmother, which got me started volunteering and fundraising to begin with,” Houghton said. “Every day I feel fortunate to be able to do this for a living, to go to work and make a difference, like each one of these riders did this weekend.”
Covering a 252–mile course from Simpsonville to Charleston, the group of cars and support personnel, volunteers, riders, numbered nearly 250 people in all. The ride began in Simpsonville and was broken up into three stages covering 67 miles to Newberry, 85 miles to Orangeburg, and a final 100-mile push to Charleston.
The logistics involved included planning the safest route across the state’s countryside, water and rest stops, medical assistance in attendance, police escorts at times, food and accommodations, and constant support of the riders for hours on end as they fought their way through cramps and spills to finish the trek.
And the ride continues to grow year by year, consistently doubling participation and the distances some riders travel to participate.
“This year one of our riders was from San Francisco, which was amazing to me,” Houghton said. “This ride has grown by word of mouth and undoubtedly a friend of his here in the southeast told him about it, they spent a year getting ready and he made the trip.”
Even before the last cyclist had turned in the third night, Houghton was already anticipating next year’s ride.
“I can’t wait to see how many riders we have next year because we got great feedback after everyone made that last mile,” she said. “This is the best supported cross-state ride in South Carolina. Every year the riders make a difference and enjoy what has become a family and they tell their friends what a great time they had and bring them along the next year.”
Though the ride itself may be over the fundraising for the event will continue through the end of the year and Houghton suggested anyone wishing to contribute to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.aridetoremember.org.
All 220 riders reached the end 252 miles later, crossing Ravenel Bridge in the homestretch, each raising money based on the number of miles completed. For those who clocked all 252 miles of the ride, they will forever more be known as marathoners where this ride is concerned.
But, in the end it’s the disease, not just the sport, they have in common.
“You would have a hard time finding anyone here who hasn’t been directly affected by this disease,” Houghton said. “It’s hard to find anyone anywhere who hasn’t been.”