Participants in the nonprofit organization Side by Side's fifth annual Ride and Stride fundraiser on Saturday, April 29 will get the opportunity to become one with nature at the National Wildlife Visitor Center in South Laurel.
Unlike last year's routes along the Patuxent River and to Savage, riders and walkers will get to explore wildlife, rather than suburban neighborhoods, with the option of two new bicycle routes, according to Side by Side Executive Director Joe Murchison.
The 30- and 14-mile morning rides will start and finish at the National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, Murchison said, taking riders in and around the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge and Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. A stride, or walking, option is also available for families, who can sign up for a one- or two-mile nature hike through the center's forests and around Lake Redington.
Exhibits at the National Wildlife Visitor Center will be open with activities after the hike.
"It felt like after four years it would be nice to have a different course," said Murchison, who heads the faith-based nonprofit dedicated to improving Prince George's County elementary schools. "There will be a number of parts of the rides where it'll be like riding a bike out in western Maryland or beautiful farm country out in western Howard County."
Tickets for either bike ride are $25 per person, and $25 per family for the nature hike. Participants must also get sponsors to support their ride or stride.
Murchison said all proceeds benefit the organization's Great Start program, which provides five Prince George's County elementary schools with free family nights in English and Spanish. Each event brings together pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first- and second-grade students and their parents for a free dinner and children's activities, while parents participate in behavior, reading and math workshops held in English and Spanish.
Participating schools include Bond Mill, Deerfield Run, James Harrison, Laurel and Scotchtown Hills elementaries.
"We invite people to help make our schools stronger," Murchison said. "We believe you can have fun and raise money for a great cause at the same time."
Riders are expected to send at least 20 emails for potential sponsors, and will be given a sample message to send to family, friends and coworkers, he said. Last year's event raised $6,500, and supported 409 elementary school families.
For more information, go to https://www.bikereg.com/side-by-side-ride. A rain date is scheduled for Saturday, May 6.