Cyclists by the hundred raise money for Food Bank

  • The Ass Bikewards team, with members Dennis Mathewson, left, of Belchertown, Eric Wolpin of Amherst, Scott Defelice of Holyoke and Neal Parks of Amherst prepare to line up for the 50-mile bike ride at the Will Bike 4 Food charity cycling event Sunday at the Lions Club Pavilion in Hatfield. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

  • Participants in the 25-mile bike ride depart the Lions Club Pavilion during the 11th annual Will Bike 4 Food charity cycling event Sunday in Hatfield. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

  • Participants in the 25-mile bike ride depart the Lions Club Pavilion during the 11th annual Will Bike 4 Food charity cycling event Sunday in Hatfield. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

  • Cyclists make their way up to Deerfield for the 25-mile Bike Ride as part of the Will Bike 4 Food charity cycling event Sunday in Hatfield. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

  • Cyclists make their way up to Deerfield for the 25-mile bike ride as part of the Will Bike 4 Food charity fundraising event Sunday in Hatfield. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2021 8:22:40 PM

HATFIELD — More than 300 cyclists took off from the Lions Club Pavilion on Sunday morning for the 11th Annual Will Bike 4 Food charity ride to benefit The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

The in-person event on Billings Way was a return to form after last year’s ride took place virtually, a consequence of public health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Sunday evening, organizers said cyclists had reported raising $158,000. That number will grow as more teams turn in their donations, and the final amount will be known in mid-October.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts distributes food to low-income households in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties, and serves 173 pantries.

Lillian Baulding, a spokeswoman for the Food Bank, said every dollar raised will fund four healthy meals, meaning that this year’s charity cyclists raised enough to buy 632,000 meals. Since Will Bike 4 Food began in 2011, the event has raised nearly $1.1 million.

“We’re just so glad that people came out to help their neighbors who are facing food insecurity,” Baulding said, adding that the problem is worse since the pandemic started in 2020. “We distributed 2.8 million meals more in 2020 than we did in 2019.”

Riders chose either a 100-mile, 50-mile, 25-mile or 10-mile route. The 100-mile route went north through Franklin County, all the way to Guilford, Vt.

Felice Lesser of Florence said it was her fifth year participating in Will Bike 4 Food. Last year, she and Paul Vilani joined the virtual ride, which let cyclists raise money throughout the month of September and then go on the bike ride on their own.

“Last year, we went on a 45-mile ride. We tried doing the 25-mile route, but we took a wrong turn someplace and ended up in Greenfield,” Lesser said. “Today, we’re just doing the 10.”

“She dragooned me into doing this today,” Vilani said with a smile. “It’s a beautiful day for it.”

Chiqui’s Kitchen provided a lunch of rice and beans and handmade empanadas to the riders. Local craft beer, wine and cider were on offer, as well, and lawn games were set up for children of all ages.

Sponsors included Stop & Shop, cannabis company INSA, Five College Movers and many more. Valley Bike, the bike share service with stations throughout the Pioneer Valley, donated bikes for cyclists to use, and Speed & Sprocket offered on-site repairs and tune-ups.

On Nov. 24 and 24, walkers in the 11th annual Monte’s March will raise money for the Food Bank. The two-day, 43-mile walk was the brainchild of Monte Belmonte, a radio personality for 93.9 the River in Northampton.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.


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