By Karen Nitkin, For The Baltimore Sun
6:39 PM EDT, September 23, 2012
A group of 11 Baltimore women who set out Sept. 19 to ride their bicycles 365 miles across Maryland in five days arrived Sunday at Fort McHenry to the cheers of more than 100 family members and friends..
The participants are members of a group called Women Who STAND/Baltimore, formed about two years ago as part of the Baltimore-based global organization World Relief. The bicyclists raised nearly $40,000 through the event, called Ride 365, for organizations benefiting women and girls in Malawi and Cambodia.
One rider was Debbie Foreman, 51, of Timonium, who said she joined the group because "I was at a season in life where I knew the world was much larger than my own reality."
Like others in the group, Foreman was inspired by "Half the Sky," a book by New York Times journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which makes a case for female empowerment around the world.
Foreman was also in a group that traveled to Cambodia in February with World Relief. It was her first journey to a developing nation, and her eyes were opened both to the needs there and to the potential to make a difference, she said. "I could see the effectiveness of the organization," she said. "The World Relief model is training people who then train their communities."
Ride 365 was organized by Kris Bailey, 47, of Baltimore. "Women around the world are so much more vulnerable," she said. "We thought that was an injustice. We want to stand against the injustice that women face around the world."
Bailey was also instrumental in forming the volunteer advocacy group. "It's been so organic," she said. "It was a group of us saying we care about these issues and we see that World Relief is doing great work." Women Who STAND has a about 250 Facebook fans and about 200 blog followers, said Bailey. The bike ride was the group's first major fundraising event.
About a year ago, World Relief organized a bike ride from Oregon to Maryland, with only men as participants, to provide relief in the Congo.
Bailey and her group decided they would do an all-female bike ride. At first, they thought they would do a cross-country ride, she said. But then they opted for a smaller undertaking. They have been training together and separately, getting ready for the physical challenge.
Another rider was Lee Daugherty, 38, of Baltimore, a cardiac critical care doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She rides 20 to 75 miles most weekends and exercises on her stationary bike after work. "This is a great way to raise awareness and get exercise," she said. "It's not about bitterness and rage and anger; it's about hope, and about bringing hope to women."
The plan was to start at the state's westernmost point in Oakland, riding 60 miles the first day, 100 the second, 55 the third, 89 the fourth and 61 on the final day, finishing in Baltimore.
Like its parent organization, World Relief, Women Who STAND is focused on giving people the tools to help themselves, and the organizations benefiting from the bike ride reflect that mission.
With funds from the ride, 5,000 people in Cambodia will gain access to seedlings of the Moringa tree, which contains highly nutritious leaves, as well as training to grow and process the leaves.
"We'll train thousands of people," said Bailey. "Then they'll go to their villages and teach others. That's what I love about World Relief. …It's training the trainers, and all these people can effect change in their communities."
In addition, children in Malawi will receive backpacks with school supplies, and older children will receive the fees needed to attend high school. "It's a way to raise up future generations," said Bailey.
As the event's organizer, Bailey didn't travel by bicycle. "I'm coordinating, which is infinitely easier," she said. An anonymous donor gave $10,000 to underwrite the cost of the ride, and Race Pace Bicycles, which has several shops in the Baltimore area, loaned equipment and provided technical support, including a mechanic — who came in handy, repairing 10 flats.
Foreman had participated in some challenging events before signing up for Ride 365. For the past two years, she has joined in a ride benefiting Moveable Feast, which was 100 miles the first day and 40 the second day. "This was kind of a new hurdle for me," she said of the longer Ride 365. "I love the physical challenge of it. It's a win-win."
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