By Jesse Coleman
As America begins to heal from last week”s catastrophic attack, one company is pedaling forward across the countryside to bring aid and relief to communities throughout the nation.
Williams Gas Pipeline sponsored it third “Riding the Line” cycling marathon this week, a fundraising event for United Way.
More than 200 of the company”s employees criss-crossed the country, determined to raise $24 million for their cause.
An entourage of bicyclists representing the western states will complete their 1,000 mile journey in Salt Lake today.
According to Debbie Lewis, media contact for Williams, the first “Riding the Line” marathon began in Houston in 1999. Two Williams employees made a goal to raise $100,000 for United Way and succeeded in raising over $2 million. This year, as one of the marathons takes place for the first time along one of the Western pipelines, the collective goal for the cyclists is $24 million.
Kent Day, director of information technologies for Williams in Salt Lake, helped coordinate the event. Day, who graduated from BYU in 1978, said that the money raised doesn”t go to one central United Way coffer.
“All of the incremental funds raised for United Way are matched dollar for dollar by Williams and go back to the communities in which the funds were raised,” Day said.
The western team, which started off Tuesday, Sept. 11, from Bakersfield, Calif., made a cameo appearance in Provo Monday, Sept. 17, where they were presented with a check of $300,000 in sponsorship money raised in the area.
The riders include a few BYU alumni. Each rider was required to raise an initial $2,500 in pledges for United Way in order to enter the marathon. Requesting money from local companies and other sponsors, the riders trained many months in preparation for the 60 mile-a-day, six-day trip.
Michael Pentilla, designated rider for the Fillmore District, said the goal for the West was $2 million.
“It”s a win-win situation for everybody,” Pentilla said. “I get some much needed exercise and some cool gear. Volunteers come in and sponsor us and that money is matched and goes back to the community.”
The attacks on the World Trade Center Tuesday, Sept. 11, forced the marathon riders to make some tough decisions. Deborah Dalton, a rider following the New York City-Houston route, decided to continue on because for her it would be a way to symbolize the strength of the nation.
“We were able to look at our situation, adjust our routes accordingly, recognize what needed to be done and then work together as a team to do it,” Dalton said. “That is exactly the way our country will overcome this horrific tragedy.”