It all began with a tug at a mother’s heart strings.
If you ask Dave Nazaroff, the 900-mile bicycle ride he’s completing this week is no big deal, but then again, Nazaroff is a 10-time Ironman.
Nazaroff and a three-person “pit crew” were in Mount Airy briefly this week as part of a New York-to-Georgia ride to help a needy child as part of his charity, Ride To Give.
“Ride To Give started simply enough,” said Senior Program Coordinator Barbara Valente as she munched on a pre-ride breakfast. “(Nazaroff’s wife) Kaete had seen a story about a boy in Georgia who had had a tree limb fall on his head, causing a traumatic brain injury.
“She and Dave decided they wanted to do something and she asked (her husband) whether he would be willing to do a charity ride to Georgia if they could raise $10,000,” Valente said. “We set up a web page and within a week we raised the $10,000, and over the course of the fundraising we ended up raising $180,000 for the family and another $17,000 for our partner charity Sunshine on a Ranney Day, which renovates rooms and homes for children with illnesses and special needs.”
They thought it would stop there.
“(Kaete) thought it would be a one-time deal, but after last year’s ride was over we began being contacted to help other children,” Nazaroff said. “At this point, Ride To Give has raised more than $800,000 for more than 30 children through contributions on the Internet.”
So he went back on the road again, and passed through Mount Airy Thursday.
This year, the charity is helping the family of Callie Truelove of Gainesville, Georgia.
“She has Williams Syndrome, a brain disorder that causes permanent mental issues, seizures and other problems,” said Valente. “She will require constant care for the rest of her life.”
While Nazaroff is riding to Georgia, Sunshine on a Ranney Day is busy renovating Truelove’s home and creating a space for physical therapy, Valente said.
“We just really want to be able to help children suffering from long-term debilitating conditions,” she noted.
Nazaroff said the ride started last Sunday in Upper Nyack, New York, and he plans to ride 130-160 miles a day until he reaches Gainesville, Georgia Saturday morning.
Upon arrival, Nazaroff said he will end the trip with a ceremonial eight-mile ride to Truelove’s home, where she will see the renovations, and meet him, for the first time.
Nazaroff, who owns three bicycle shops in New York City, said he considers the rides his vacation. He brings four state-of-the-art bicycles that cost more than many cars and include things like electronic shifters; a support vehicle and three crew members.
Valente said the people they’ve met through the ride have been “unbelievable.”
“Sometimes people are lining the road to greet us and hand us money,” she said. “It’s a great way to see the country.”
Team member Michael Gottlieb, who grew up next door to Nazaroff and has known him since they were 3 years old, said the scenery in the Foothills is something to behold.
“It’s just beautiful countryside,” he said. “For a city boy like me, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see it.”
While the ride is both fun and challenging, Nazaroff said the goal of helping children is never far from his mind.
“This ride is about helping other people,” he said. “And the response has been overwhelming.
“When we did it last year, we thought we may raise a couple of thousand dollars. We ended up raising so very much more and it’s amazing to think about,” Nazaroff added. “So we decided to keep the momentum going, became friends with the Sunshine charity and found people to run the organization.”
As for the ride itself, Nazaroff said he’s certainly been taken off the beaten path.
“We’ve definitely taken some back roads through Virginia that I don’t believe people even remember exist,” he said with a laugh.
“But I’m blessed. My wife and I have two healthy children, and we feel that if we’re blessed with a healthy family we should give back to others who may not be so lucky,” he said quietly. “We should help people who are less fortunate.
“Our motto is ‘give a little, change a lot’,” he added. “Because if we get a lot of people donating small amounts of money it adds up and it can actually change a family’s life. If everyone did that, the whole world would be a better place.”
“It all started with a mother feeling in her heart the call to help a little boy,” she said. “Anyone sitting at home reading this right now can do what we’ve done. They can reach out and let someone know there are people out there who want to help.
“She saw her son in that little boy in Georgia,” Valente added. “And that has turned into something so much greater.”
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.