|2017 Bike Hike
What it is & Why it is held
In 1974 a group of local parents and interested citizens began meeting to draw attention to the unmet needs of the developmentally disabled in Randolph County. Through 1975 the group met throughout the county in churches, schools, and in any public forum available to bring this need to the attention of the citizens of Randolph County. Through the grass roots efforts of this group, the Randolph County Association for the Learning Center was created. The Association is now called the Arc of Randolph County. The Association was incorporated in 1975 and began a public awareness campaign about the need for services. The first priority for the group was a center for individuals to attend. The program was to be patterned after an existing program in Clay County, and funds and certification were sought from the Department of Mental Health. The group soon learned from the Department, that before any state and federal money could be accessed, the local community would need local match money. Many private and business donations were made, but a large fundraiser was needed to start a program. At that time, in 1976, Randolph County had to raise $11,500.00.
In March of 1976 the Randolph County Arc began plans for the first Bike Hike. The first Bike Hike in Randolph County caused much excitement and attention. The event was held in May. 293 bikers and walkers participated in this major event and raised over $27,000.00. The event even drew national attention because of 16-year-old Gene Gilham. Gilham completed the 25-mile in a wheelchair. Earl Manning from the local WELR radio station gave reports of Gene’s progress, and listeners called in pledges totaling over $6,000.00. Gene wore out three pairs of gloves on his trek and was joined by a caravan on the last part of the route. In the weeks to come, messages of congratulations came in from Bear Bryant, Governor George Wallace and President Gerald R. Ford.
Due to the success of the Bike Hike and hard work of Randolph County the Randolph County Learning Center was established. The Center was housed in the American Legion Building, Post #53. The Center is still housed in the Post at no cost. The building was renovated with help of local businesses and volunteers. The program has struggled through lean times, but the local support has always kept it going.
The Randolph County Bike Hike continues. There have been many changes throughout the years. In 1986 the Warm-Up, individuals riding stationary bikes at the local radio station was added. Pledges are called in to the radio station EAGLE 102.3/WELR. This event continues to be the top money raiser for Bike Hike. A Trike Trek for younger children was also added in 1986. The Trike Trek and Mini-Route continue as a regular event with the Bike Hike. The Trike Trek and Mini-Route are no longer a part of the 1 mile Bike Hike. Students participate at local schools and day cares and are a big part of the fundraising.
New events come and go each year. There have been Wedowee Hospital employees walking from the hospital to the event, tandem bicycle races across the county, volleyball tournaments, tug of wars and racing of riding lawnmowers through downtown Roanoke in a Lawn Mower 500, and many other events. Six years ago the Mullet Toss was added to the Warm-Up Beach Party and will continue this year. In 2015, employees from Tanner Medical Center walked from their facility in Wedowee to the Warm-Up at Eagle 102.3.
In May 2016, the Randolph County Learning Center will celebrate its 41st Annual Bike Hike. The caring and participation of Randolph County residents will be celebrated and remembered. Many individuals have participated in the Bike Hike since the beginning. Many young adults grew up participating in the event and have continued the tradition.
This year’s event will be held on Saturday, May 20th. A one-mile walk or ride replaces the 20-mile route of the past. Leading up to the Bike Hike on Saturday many events will be held. The Warm-Up Beach Party will be held on Friday, May 12th on Eagle 102’s front lawn. Participants will ride stationary bicycles while wearing beach attire to encourage call-in pledges. Also, a cookout and on the air auction are held the same day leading up to the big 5 o’clock finale.
The Randolph County Learning Center continues to serve individuals with disabilities from throughout the Randolph County area. Services include, but are not limited to, daily transportation to and from the center, individualized training according to each person’s need, daily lunch, assistance with medical care, in-home training and in-home companion care, assistance with independent living, supported employment services, recreational activities, case management services, and assistance with Camp ASCCA trips.
There is currently a statewide waiting list in Alabama of over 3500 individuals waiting for funded services. Randolph County currently has several individuals on the waiting list. The Randolph County Learning Center hopes to serve the individuals in our service area when the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities provides funding and placement. Bike Hike funds help the Center continue even through tough times.
304 East Broome St
6855 HWY 431