UPDATE: This post is written by Kelsey Butler from Calhoun County Insight. Learn more at: https://calhouncountyinsight.com/
During the storm, as James Spann detailed the path, my heart just sank. Not because of our event scheduled to take place at Pete Mathews Coliseum on May 20, but because of all of our friends who live and work in Jacksonville, and I love that beautiful campus.” Brooke Nelson describes how she felt as she watched weather coverage on the evening of March 19.
Nelson serves as Race Director for Cheaha Challenge, presented by Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association (NEABA). For years, the ride has centered around the city of Jacksonville and the campus of Jacksonville State University. Cyclists lodge in dorms and use the facilities at the Coliseum.
“We stayed glued to the TV and Facebook,” Nelson continues. “And it was not until the reports of the coliseum being leveled (which were untrue) that I even clicked and considered what it would mean to our rides.”
In the days after the storm, Nelson reached out to her contacts at JSU and offered help from NEABA. She says the organization had a social scheduled for the Sunday following the storm, and NEABA decided to turn that event into a clean-up for the Ladiga Trail, but she says the trail had already been cleared. “So we turned it into a fundraiser, where cyclists pledged to donate a certain amount for every mile they rode that day. Once we tallied the amount raised, NEABA matched it, and we took funds totaling more than $2,000 and presented it to the JSU Foundation.”
Nelson stayed in contact with the university saying she asked them to “lead her”. “I do not want to be that person, the one saying, ‘Sorry for your devastation, but what about me?’”. Two and a half weeks after the storm, Nelson received the news that Cheaha Challenge would be able to go on as planned. “This was nothing short of a miracle,” Nelson says. “I am extremely grateful for their generosity and accommodation.”
Cheaha Challenge has the honor, again this year, to host the only qualifier in the USA for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championship, which Nelson says is “validation that our team did an awesome job in 2017”. “Our ride has been on an upward trajectory the last three years, having grown more than 120% in registrations,” Nelson explains.” We had a 30% increase from 2016 to 2017, but I believe we still would’ve grown even without the bid last year. We had registrations from 26 states and 9 countries, and we’re trending the same numbers for this year.”
Learn more at: http://www.cheahachallenge.com/
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