The Blackstone Valley XPress
Bikers and walkers for the Valley Friendship Tour in Whitinsville on Saturday, June 4, were greeted by a perfect day for being outdoors and taking in the sights and sounds of summer. Hundreds of people gathered in the morning to celebrate the day, have fun, get some exercise, listen to music, and have lunch. As Alternatives Executive Director Dennis Rice said, “It’s a fun day for a great cause.”
Participants were welcomed by Rice before the first wave of participants went off on their 30- mile bike trek. The bikers were encouraged to form teams, get sponsorships for their team and compete among themselves for bragging rights. It wasn’t about being first or last in the race but more about supporting the cause and the community. Showing up and doing your part is what counts.
After Rice’s welcome the group heard from Luke Knowles, a three-year veteran in the Alternatives program who credits the support and direction he received from Alternatives with enabling him to be more independent and learn how to be more successful in handling his daily challenges. “I wouldn’t have been able to live on my own and support myself without the programs and financial support of the Alternatives programs. The staff was very patient and helpful.”
All proceeds from the Valley Friendship Tour fund essential programs at Alternatives, one of Central Massachusetts’
leading human service providers. Each year, Alternatives helps more than 2,000 people with psychiatric or developmental disabilities build satisfying lives in the community– lives that include real homes, real jobs, and real relationships.
The bikers left on their 30-mile ride first, followed by the 5K walk/run and then at 11 a.m. the very popular Golden Mile walk in which wheel chairs, walking canes and smiling participants happily made the one-mile walk through downtown Whitinsville.
The finish line was at the pavilion at 50 Douglas St., the main headquarters of the Alternatives program, and all participants were treated to a great lunch on the plaza. The post-ride/walk included music, free massage for those achy legs and shoulders, tune-ups on the bikes provided by Milford Bike shop, balloons and juggling for adults and kids alike, a visit from a Furry-Equus 21 (black furry character from a local writer’s book), and three huge raffles with incredible prizes such as Red Sox tickets and a classic Bruins jersey. The special raffle put together by the Alternatives’ Day Services group featured a 30-day raffle: one prize pulled everyday for a month and even if you win your name goes back in the bin.
The Marshall Morris band surrounded the plaza with music of all kinds, keeping up a steady beat with tunes from today and yesterday. Lots of smiles and people humming along showing that music crosses all barriers.
The Valley Friendship Tour is sponsored by many area companies and individuals sponsors. Champion level —401kQuote/Partners Benefit Group and Fallon Health. At the Platinum Level – DiPlacido Development Corp, TD Bank and The Shop at Whitinsville. Gold Level includes Jan and Ken Cunningham, Pyne Sand & Stone, George J. Summers Trucking and MSG Staffing, Inc. Thirty- five additional sponsors atthe Bronze and Friends level all helped to make this an incredible fund raising opportunity, targeting $300,000 by June 30.
By Magda Dakin