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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sea Gull Century Riders Cycle for Good Causes

SALISBURY, MD---When the estimated 6,000 cyclists hit the roads for Salisbury University’s annual Sea Gull Century October 7, some will be biking for fun. Others enjoy the exercise. And many, like Kathy Lhotsky and Debbie Conran, bike for charity.

Lhotsky said she was inspired to participate because of Conran, her co-worker at Peninsula Regional Medical Center. Conran is a Hodgkin’s cancer survivor and the two first time riders wanted to bike to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“It’s actually been very empowering because this time last year I had just finished all of my treatments, so it’s a great way to give back,” Conran said.

The Sea Gull Century began in 1989, when 68 riders associated with the University’s bike club took to the roads as a friendly challenge. Since then it has become quite the charitable event, one that supports fund raising efforts for a number of organizations both on campus and in the community, said event coordinator Amy Waters.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has more than 250 cyclists riding as part of the Team In Training program. They raise funds for cancer research by participating in endurance events, like the century, which takes riders on either a 100-mile or 100-kilometer course through picturesque regions of Wicomico and Worcester counties.

To prepare, Lhotsky and Conran have trained since May, usually biking 80 miles with 20 teammates on Saturdays. Lhotsky said they’ve also been riding about 25 miles two days a week before work.  “This is all new for me,” said Lhotsky, who was not athletic before. “It takes a lot of dedication. I’ve met a lot of great people.”

Besides practicing, learning techniques and safety, the participants have also been fundraising, as they must raise a minimum amount that covers event expenses. “It’s just a lot of asking, be it family and friends or walking up to people on the boardwalk,” Conran said. Participants also use letter writing campaigns or solicit Web donations.

Joan Wharton is also riding on behalf of Team In Training and serving as a mentor. “We take a few of the newer riders under our wing and show them a few skills,” she said. “People are coming out to ride who have no connection to cancer and you can really see the good in people. It really touches my heart as a survivor.”

The Sea Gull Century used to be a Team In Training event for primarily Maryland riders, but three years ago expanded to include teams nationwide, said Brandon Wilmoth, national manager. This year, Maryland riders are joined by chapters from nine states including Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, Nebraska and California. “These events are keys to our fundraising success,” Wilmoth said. “Events like Sea Gull Century allow us to bring our participants, who raise great amounts of money training.” Last year, participants raised about $750,000 before the event and this year’s total will be similar, Wilmoth said. 

Sea Gull Century also has a long standing relationship with Habitat for Humanity Wicomico County, said Barry King, the organization’s executive director. “It has provided financial support for which we are just eternally grateful because it helps us build more homes for deserving low income families here in Wicomico County,” King said. “The financial support from Sea Gull Century participants plays a central role to us being able to achieve our mission.”

Upon registration, riders may donate to Habitat for Humanity – which they generously did last year. Contributions totaled $6,742. Riders can also make a tax-deductible donation to the Salisbury University Scholarship Fund or support the League of American Bicyclists.

After event expenses, remaining funds are divided among a number of civic groups, Waters said. Last year, $3,800 in proceeds was donated to groups including Relay For Life, Wicomico County Parks and Recreation and local fire departments. 

For more information call 410-548-2772 or visit www.seagullcentury.org.




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