Whenever possible, I ride my bike to the train station to catch the local to my office in New Brunswick. The 20 minute ride wakes me up in the mornings and in the evenings it helps me decompress. It also means that I get to hang out with my friends, neighbors and co-workers who also take the train.
Last week, while waiting on the platform, I bumped into a colleague from our legal department. We got to talking about cycling, and he told me about how he was going cycle 75 miles from Cherry Hill (which is near Philadelphia) to Ocean City on the Jersey Shore.
It quickly became apparent that this was no ordinary ride in the country. He was going to join more than 7,500 riders to raise money for the fight against multiple sclerosis. According to the MS Society, this annual event was wildly successful this year, breaking all previous records to raise more than $4.5 million.
There were loads of teams participating from different clubs, schools, churches and other organizations. Some of the larger teams raised a great deal of money. Accordiing to the MS website, friends and family teams like Team Tania and Jersey's Team raised more than $100,000 each.
There were also corporate teams -- including those from from Merck, Wyeth, and Campbell's Soup. My friend from the legal department joined more than 400 riders from the corporation (most were from Johnson & Johnson operating companies) who made up TEAM J&J and who together have so-far raised more than $200,000 for the cause. The last I checked, TEAM J&J was the top team in terms of raising funds. More about the City to Shore MS Bike Tour is in this segment from a local Philly CBS affiliate.
I contacted Michael Faia, this year’s overall team captain for Johnson & Johnson, to get my facts straight about the event. Michael works at Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and rides about 20 to 30 miles each week, so this race to the shore must have been a piece of cake for him. Though he didn’t say, I’m sure the task of organizing a team of about 400 people from different companies and locations required a lot of hard work.So why do it?According to Michael:
I've been participating for the past six years, and it’s been tremendous to see how this event has grown as more and more people have become involved. To have more than 8,000 people, both riders and support staff, aligned around one goal is awe-inspiring.
All of this reminded me of how by encouraging volunteerism and a sense of responsibility, large organizations and companies can be a powerful force -- by acting as a catalyst for people to get involved in different causes.
As Margaret has pointed out in some of her posts on Kilmer House, Johnson & Johnson has a long tradition of supporting the local community and charitable organizations, much of it stemming from the sense of corporate responsibility instilled by the Johnson family.
Walking through the offices here today, I noticed signs for the yearly United Way Campaign, dates for upcoming blood drives as well as a sign-up sheet for a Walk to Cure Diabetes that will take place later this month. Like me, I suspect many people wouldn't get involved in initiatives like these -- or the Heart Gallery -- if it wasn't for friends and colleagues who encourage them to get involved.
In my case, after learning more about all this, I've decided to put my love of cycling to the test and participate next year.
Now to start training...