Thanks to the successful efforts of last month’s Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan cycling event and its title sponsor, fewer residents in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys will go hungry this year.
The second staging of the granfondo saw more than 2,500 cyclists on Sunday, July 8 brave hot Okanagan weather conditions to ride as far as 160 kilometres. The course included Summerland, with an early-morning aid station staffed by Summerland volunteers. Summerland residents also volunteered at other locations throughout the Granfondo weekend.
With the event now in the books, the focus for event organizers and Valley First switches to fulfilling a commitment to Feed the Valley – a community partnership aimed at tackling hunger in the region. Through in-person donations, online donations, and cans and bottles returned following the event, more than $7,500 was donated to Feed the Valley.
“The Feed the Valley program has enabled us to purchase more food which helps keep our shelves stocked,” says Christine Simmons, director of The Penticton Salvation Army Food Bank. “This July we had 157 new people using the food bank; it’s a busy time of year with children out of school.”
Valley First president Paulette Rennie agrees the Granfondo has been a resounding success in many different ways.
“The Granfondo is a simply tremendous event with incredible economic and community benefits,” says Rennie. “Participants, volunteers and event organizers have really outdone themselves by generating such a significant Feed the Valley contribution. This effort makes Valley First extremely proud of its support of the Granfondo.”
As well as the funds, more than 500 pounds of food items were delivered to the Penticton Salvation Army following the event, including 150 kilograms of bananas and more than 1,000 bottles of juice.
“Together with help of all our sponsors, it’s once again a pleasure to work with Valley First and raise crucial funds through our event for Feed the Valley,” says Okanagan resident, event namesake, and former cycling champion, Axel Merckx. “We are so thankful for the support from the community, and so it’s without hesitation that we give back in the form of funds and food. We look forward to doing the same next year.”
Launched to coincide with hunger awareness month in March 2010, Feed the Valley is a corporate citizenship program created by Valley First. Feed the Valley aims to raise food, funds and awareness for local food banks.
With the ultimate goal of eliminating hunger through the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys, Feed the Valley has raised more than $300,000 since its inception.
The Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan is a fully supported ride featuring several categories and distances to challenge riders of all levels. In addition to attracting cyclists from several continents for a weekend of cycling and family fun, the event raises funds for the Axel Merckx Youth Development Foundation – a program that fosters and develops Canada’s next great cyclists. Next year’s Granfondo will take place on July 7, 2013.