Who would have thunk?

The 2016 SMART Challenge Ride was nothing short of amazing!  

Five short years ago, Sherri Langfeldt and I did a 250 mile ride to the Sinsinowa Mound Center, near Dubuque, IA.   There were only two of us in the first SMART Challenge Ride and we raised a total of $3,000.   (I was pretty excited since a major donor is someone who gives at least $1,000 to the school. :)) 

Anyway, this year we hit an unfathomable high of $120,000 raised!  In fact, over the first five years, the total funds raised is nearly $275,000!  I could not have even imagined we would have gotten to this point. 

A big thanks goes to Father Kevin Finnegan.   The former Divine Mercy priest (who is now at Our Lady of Grace in Edina, MN) was able to source some significant donations and matching funds from members of his current parish.   We are forever grateful for his impact. 

This year, there were 19 people registered and 15 who were able to finish the entire three day journey.  (The non-finishers knew they were only going to be able to ride for part of the event.) We are especially grateful for our first time riders who are the lifeblood of the event--Ryan Sammon, Dave DeGrood, and Paul Zabel.

For the first time this year, we had some rough weather.  It caused a last minute rerouting of the first day ride--keeping most of the riders close to home for night 1. Franz and Sherri did a ton of work on the routing--ensuring the safety of all the riders.

On day two, we headed out toward Byron, MN from Faribault.   Most of the afternoon, we rode through steady rain.    In fact, Oxbow Park (where we camped that night) warned us of possible flash flooding.   Thankfully, to no avail.   We always remember the imperfect times, right?   Day 2 provided plenty of memories and comraderie around the campfire that night. 

On Day 3, we have a beautiful ride back from Byron to the steps of Bethlehem Academy.  

As always, we had a celebration dinner at the Depot on Saturday night to award all of our finishers.   The SMART Challenge Ride is one of the longest organized bike events in the state of Minnesota.   All of these riders should be applauded for their effort and accomplishment.   

Every year the celebration dinner; I am so grateful for the people that embrace this event.   They become new champions for our cause--making Bethlehem Academy a more affordable instiution for more kids.    

Looking forward to bigger and better 2017! 

Joe Burgess
SMART Challenge Ride Founder

The 2015 SMART Challenge Ride Proved To Be A Real Challenge!

The first two days had quite a bit of mileage as well as  a 15-20 mile-per-hour headwind.   Yes, we did change directions from the first day to the second--but so did the wind! 

There is no doubt that we were pushed to our limits.   In spite of the weather conditions, 21 of our 22 entrants finished the three-day, 245 mile route. 

As you can see, the number of riders continues to increase from year to year.   We were especially appreciative to first time rider, Bill Laney, who suggested we break up the windy days with a stop at a local pub.   I believe a new tradition has been formed! 

Once again, we achieved new heights from a fundraising perspective.   All told, we came in just over $65,000 of funds raised--net of all event expenses.  

We continue to run an efficient event.   All ride expenses are handled from a combination of sponsorships and entry fees.   Therefore, 100% of each dollar raised goes directly to the cause.  This is something we are very proud of. 

There is one lesson we may have learned this year: It is more about the comraderie and the cause than it is about the miles.  

When I started this event, I wanted the challenge of the ride to be a real challenge.   Well, two 90 mile days in 95 degree heat, into a 15 mph wind might be enough to break a lot of part-time riders--as well as turn away some possible new entrants. 

As a result, we have intentionally decided to lower the mileage for next year.   Our hope is to continue to grow the event and not make the miles quite as daunting.   Also, with excess time created by a shorter route, maybe we will give Mr. Laney the opportunity to map out a few more of those local pubs! 

Speaking for me, Franz, all our riders and support staff; we continue to be grateful for the support you provide to our ride.   It is amazing that this event has grown from 2 riders and $3,000 raised to 22 riders and $65,000 raised in just four short years. 

We are excited for 2016 and hope to make it another record year!! 

Much appreciation, 

Joe Burgess, SMART Challenge Ride Founder and Coordinator

A Fantastic Finish to the 2014 SMART Challenge Ride!

We ended up with 15 riders completing the three-day, 250 mile ride this year.   We had beautiful weather all three days.  

The toughest day was the century ride on day two.  Although it was a great accomplishment, we may not venture into the 100 mile day territory again in the near future. :)

Like the years before, there was great comraderie throughout the ride and at our evening campsites.   

We'd like to thank the sponsors again:  The Depot Bar and Grill; who sponsored all the food for the three day event, as well as our celebration dinner on Saturday night.   Excelsior Brewery sponsored the beer at our campsites.   And Fairway Foods provided water and fruit for all the rest stops.     

And lastly, net of expenses, we were able to raise $42,500 of additional tuition support for our current and future Bethlehem Academy students!   

This event now ranks third for Bethlehem Academy in terms of funds raised and contributed to the school-regardless of the specific cause.

I am so grateful for the passion and support that has developed for this event.   I am thankful for the riders and our donors.   

I cannot wait for next year to see what this great group of people can accomplish! 

All the best,
Joe Burgess

SMART Challenge Ride Founder and Coordinator
August 11, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes!

First of all, I think we will need an IT director for next year.   Sorry I could not get this to you sooner.
Anyway, it is hard to put into words how great this years' SMART Challenge Ride turned out.   We increased ridership from 2 to 11 riders.   We increased our funds raised from $3k to almost $54k!   Most importantly, the energy and comraderie from the group was something truly special.
Going into the ride, I had only known two other people who were joining us.  ...


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August 19, 2012

Mission Accomplished!!

So after a little re-routing and 97.5 miles of total riding, we hit Dubuque at 5:45 last night.   Feels really good to complete the ride.

The issue we had in Iowa was roads with no shoulders and hills.   With a small number of riders, we decided to make mid-stream adjustments.    What we found is that there is no easy way into Dubuque.  About 10 miles out, we rode through a huge bluff that required us to walk our bikes up the backside--where we were met by the chalet of a ski resort!



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