Cyclists gear up for LKN Excursion
by Staff Writer
MOORESVILLE – It’s hot out, but a local company is keeping things cool by sponsoring a multi-sport fundraiser July 14 to benefit the American Red Cross.
The Lake Norman Excursion kicks off July 14 at 7 a.m. on the Lowe’s campus in Mooresville and includes a 5K run/walk, family fun ride and 100-mile, 65-mile and 40-mile bike races.
The event is part of Mooresville bike shop Cool Breeze Cyclery’s Corporate Wellness Challenge – a program designed to get employees from the couch to the finish line by providing them with training plans and expertise.
The bike shop, co-owned by Steve Doolittle and
Chris Vasiloff, opened in 2006 with a mission “to create an experience and build a community.”
Included in that mission was bringing back the Lake Norman Excursion, a popular cycling event in the 1980s that circled Lake Norman.
Development on the lake put an end to the event due to traffic and safety concerns, but the event’s namesake was resurrected when Vasiloff and Doolittle were looking to organize an event for a good cause.
The first reinstituted excursion was held in 2007 and attracted more than 600 cyclists. Cool Breeze partnered with Lowe’s Home Improvement and was able to use the corporate headquarters in Mooresville for the event.
“This is the sixth year we’ve done this and every year it has grown,” Doolittle said. “This year we expect 1,000 riders, which puts the excursion in one of the top four charity rides in the Charlotte/Lake Norman region.”
With such a large turnout, the event has raised at least $15,000 each year for the local chapter of the American Red Cross.
The Corporate Wellness Challenge also includes a 5K race in March to benefit Girls on the Run and a triathlon in September to benefit the Ada Jenkins Center. All events are open to the public.
While Cool Breeze has partnerships with nearly every large company in the area, its biggest are with Lowe’s, Rubbermaid and Ingersoll Rand and all the events take place, at least in part, on their corporate campuses. And because of those relationships, Cool Breeze lets the companies pick the race beneficiaries.
Doolittle said Ingersoll Rand created an incentive for its employees to participate by pledging to donate a certain amount of money for every employee who completes the training and does the course.
“The first year they did it they were surprised how many people participated,” Doolittle said. “They wrote a check for $60,000 to the Ada Jenkins Center.”
In 2010 and 2011, Ingersoll Rand had about 200 of its 1,100 employees participate in the Corporate Wellness Challenge and donated a total of $100,000 to the Ada Jenkins Center.
Doolittle said the corporate wellness program has evolved into something truly beneficial for the companies and the community.
Kate Meier, regional communications director for Red Cross, said her organization has definitely seen the benefit from the Lake Norman Excursion.
Meier said the nearly $80,000 raised over the last six years has gone directly back to the community.
“All that money is used to help people in our local communities when they suffer fires and other disasters, and lifesaving courses,” Meier said. “It helps us with our transportation program where we take people to critical medical appointments. That’s how that money helps our community.”
Meier added that the Red Cross isn’t only a beneficiary, but that many of the Red Cross staff and volunteers participate in the event as well.
“I ran last year with a baby jogger and my son, and I have done the 40-mile bike ride,” Meier said. “It’s a big, fun event for us.”
She said the Red Cross provides a good brunt of the volunteers for the event and works with Cool Breeze and Lowe’s to help put the excursion together.
“We’re not just the beneficiary,” she said. “We put a lot of work into it.”
Meier said what makes the Lake Norman Excursion more of a standout event is that it’s the longest race in the area.
“You don’t find too many 100-mile bike rides around here,” she said. “It’s a family friendly event, and the 5K and family fun ride are all on the Lowe’s Campus so it’s on a closed loop and very safe and secure. We have something for everybody here, which sets it apart from other rides and runs.”
Lowe’s employee Laura Good, 45, has participated in the Cool Breeze triathlon and is getting ready for her second Lake Norman Excursion. This year she’s opted for the 5K run and 40-mile bike loop.
“I really enjoy this event,” Good said. “The excursion is a great way to meet new people while exercising, and more importantly, raise money for a good cause.”