Smile a Mile Ride of Love coming to OMSP Sept. 25

By NATHAN HOWELL | Staff Writer

PELHAM – Childhood cancer organization Smile-A-Mile is hosting its Ride of Love event at Oak Mountain State Park on Sept. 25.

The event is an opportunity to help raise funds for the organization to help support its efforts in providing resources and help to children and families childhood cancer.

“The Ride of Love is a very special event that raises funds for Smile-A-Mile. Over the years, the Ride of Love has grown to be much more than a fundraising event,” reads a press release from the organization. “It’s a tradition and part of our programming. Traditionally cyclists stay together as a group throughout the entire ride, pedaling more than 150 miles to ride into On-Therapy Family Camp at Lake Martin to be greeted by cheering children and families.”

According to Special Events Director Katie Langley, this particular event features a location change and will create an additional opportunity for guests to discover new parts of the park.

“We have been around for over 35 years, providing programming and support for families on the childhood cancer journey,” Langley said. “In 2017, we built the Smile-A-Mile Place in the Parkside district. We are now 3 blocks from Children’s of Alabama and we are in the hospital multiple times a week, all to help support families on this journey.”

The ride is typically a 150-mile trek, but because of the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic some changes had to be made for the event to continue.

“It has been an annual fundraiser we had for many years before my time. It is typically 150 miles from Smile-A-Mile Place to Children’s Harbor where we host our summer camps,” Langley said. “We weren’t able to have our therapy camp that we would normally ride into. We are just looking for some different options this year, and our cycling community gave us some feedback for options this year and keep everyone safe and to cycle and raise money. “

Langley said the Ride of Love would coincide with the organization’s family day at the park. Cyclists participating in the event will have an opportunity to determine their own, distance and times.

The 7-mile stretch of bike lane along John Findley Drive will be used for the ride.The organization will use the Discover Shelby pavilion along Terrace Drive as its home base for the event, where registration, lunch and ride start and end will take place. There will also be a bike mechanic and medical staff on site in case of emergencies.

Smile-A-Mile is offering in-person and virtual options for registration.

In-person registration is $50 and comes with a T-shirt, OMSP entry and a lunch. Virtual registration is $25 and also comes with a T-shirt.

“Smile-A-Mile started more than 35 years ago with just a single summer camp session for children in Alabama with cancer. Over the years, we have grown to be a year-round program that serves children and their families from diagnosis and through the years beyond treatment. Our purpose is to provide hope for these families through their cancer journey,” according to Smile-A-Mile’s website.

Each participant in the ride is asked to help raise $250, which will go to supporting these programs and initiatives.

“We ask our riders when they sign up to commit to raise at least $250 to cover our programming,” Langley explained. “We do have a lot of people who are return riders that will go out and raise more funds than that. We are hopeful this year we can have a successful event. Last year, we tried to postpone and do something alternative and had to cancel altogether. We are excited to be able to have it in some fashion.”

To register for the ride and to get more information visit Smileamile.com.