CARA Ride keeps growing

May. 11, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

More than 200 people spent their Saturday mornings sweating as they pedaled up hills and around rural roads in Lee and Chatham counties. They were rewarded with food, beer and playful puppies.

The bikers were participating in Ride For Their Lives, an annual fundraiser for CARA (Carolina Animal Rescue and Adoption) in Sanford. Cars spilled out of the parking areas and lined both sides of the road near the staging point, Camelback Bridge, in the Cumnock area.

"We try to do a few big events each year," said CARA fundraising coordinator Eva Rogers. "We have this, we have a golf event in June, and we have a race later on."

She said the foot race has the most participants, but Ride For Their Lives brings in the most money. But they're happy, she said, as long as their events continue to grow in popularity. The funds go to CARA, a non-profit which operates a no-kill shelter, works with local veterinary offices and subsidizes spay/neuter treatments for low-income families.

It's the fifth year the bike ride has been held and this year about 220 people rode the 10-, 37- or 62-mile courses. Others came out to cheer on loved ones and play with the rambunctious dogs.

LouAnn Lee and her husband Tom, a senior games champion and avid rider, are big fans of CARA and have two rescue dogs of their own. She doesn't ride but he does, and he said he's been all over the state for races or charity rides, but nothing beats the one closest to home.

"As far as a ride in the country, it doesn't get better than this," Tom Lee said, adding that the cause makes it even better: "They really stretch their budget at CARA, I think, as well as any group. I like to support them."

The Lees are from Sanford, but many participants weren't. Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews was out riding, for example, and many riders came even further, from Raleigh and Fayetteville.

One Raleigh couple, Rodney and Yolanda Brunskill, have participated every year. Yolanda even showed up this year despite her recent hip surgery that left her unable to ride. But she said she'll be back on a bike by the time the event rolls around next year, and that she didn't mind having a more leisurely Saturday than Rodney.

"I enjoy the scenery and looking at all the puppies," Yolanda said.

"I just enjoy the ride," Rodney added. "Up in Raleigh, you don't get the chance to do a nice country ride like this."

One newcomer to the event was Fred McIver, who recently moved to Sanford from the Triangle.

"I'm a marathon runner," he said. "This is my first ride out here. But it was for a good cause."

CARA's Rogers said the whole idea is to keep bringing new folks out while also retaining the loyalty of longtime supporters. This year, they plied people with the promise of free food from Cafe 121, free beer from Carolina Brewing Company and live music all awaiting returning riders on the shores of the Deep River.

Next year there could be even more.

"Every year we try to learn something; we try to improve," Rogers said.