This past weekend, a group of Montclair State University students and staff put the traditional images of laziness and comfort that accompany Thanksgiving to rest, facing the elements and putting their bodies to the test in the 2015 Turkey Ride.
The Turkey Ride is an annual event held by the Montclair Bikery, a bicycle shop on Valley Road. On the day of the Turkey Ride, participants started riding their bike at Montclair Bikery and made a stop at the Brookdale ShopRite. There, each rider picked up a Thanksgiving turkey to bring to the final destination, the Human Needs Food Pantry on Label Street in Montclair. The total course of the ride was 15 miles long.
It was just under 50 degrees outside when Romayne Eaker-Kelly, the director of Campus Recreation, and Jared Utterback, Coordinator of Fitness Programs at the Student Recreation Center, accompanied students from the organization Rec Board to Montclair Bikery to participate in the third annual Turkey Ride on Sunday, Nov. 22. All Montclair State participants came ready with a bicycle and helmet and prepared to face the cold and the hilly path to deliver their turkeys safely to the food pantry.
“The ride itself was tough,” said Gabby Raccosta, a member of the Rec Board executive board. “I don’t work out regularly, so just jumping on a bike and riding [15-plus] miles was definitely challenging.” Raccosta and her fellow riders did not give in when the ride got tough, however. She and the other participants from Montclair State played games like I Spy to help them get through the course, despite the “burning sensation radiating from [their] legs.”
Participating in the Turkey Ride is part of the larger philanthropic mission of Rec Board, Eaker-Kelly explained. “RecBoard’s mission is to participate in monthly community service projects and November is usually [a time to] feed the hungry, so the Montclair Bikery Turkey Ride fit in with their monthly goal.”
Not only was the Turkey Ride a way to give back to the larger Montclair community, but also a way for students to experience a method of transportation that Campus Recreation has been exploring in depth over the past few years: bicycling.
With the help of motivated students, Utterback set up a bike rental system for students via the Student Recreation Center in 2013, known as Hawk on Wheels. Hawk on Wheels is the first bike rental system of its kind and the bikes for the program were purchased from Montclair Bikery.
When discussing the choice to participate in the Turkey Ride this year, Utterback said, “By being able to combine the student participation and enthusiasm of the Hawk on Wheels program from Montclair State University with the ability to ride bikes for a great cause for the community, it was a no-brainer for us to jump on board.”
Over 300 people made the ride on Sunday and over 400 turkeys were donated. Rec Board not only donated the turkeys that they were able to purchase on their ride, but also money that they collected during their meetings for the cause.
Once the ride ended, Raccosta reflected back on the experience, saying, “In the end, it was a very [rewarding] experience on both a personal and philanthropic level.”
Eaker-Kelly echoes Raccosta’s support of Rec Board’s philanthropic mission: “I’m extremely proud to be involved with an outstanding group of young adults that feel the need on a regular basis to spend time working on charitable causes.”
“It was a fantastic event,” said Utterback. “It was great for cyclists, both recreational and competitive, to be able to come together in a fun, social setting for a rewarding experience that benefits the community as we approach the holiday season.”