This month, nearly 200 people from 29 U.S. states and Canada rode their bicycles 480 miles across South Dakota, from the Black Hills to the state’s eastern glacial lakes. The 198 riders, ranging from 8 to 78 years old, were taking part in the weeklong Ride Across South Dakota, an annual event that supports charitable organizations across South Dakota— including the 26-year-old, not-for-profit, grassroots Cheyenne River Youth Project® in Eagle Butte.
In the 2015 RASDak, not only did riders spend the night at CRYP, they raised nearly $18,000 to support the venerable youth organization’s ongoing mission on the 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
“RASDak raised roughly $12,900 for CRYP, which incorporated $10,000 directly from RASDak and the remainder from individual donations,” said Kasey Abbott, one of the ride’s lead organizers. “If you include the $5,000 that was anonymously donated, then we’re nearing the $18,000 mark. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some additional donations come in.”
On June 8, RASDak participants rode 102 miles from Union Center to Eagle Butte and spent the night at the CRYP campus. The youth project’s farm-to-table Keya (“Turtle”) Cafe provided dinner and breakfast, as well as lunch along the 71-mile route to Gettysburg on June 9. Riders also were be able to enjoy a bull-riding competition, a local Lakota drum group, and much more.
“I rode the route and talked to riders,” Abbott noted. “One question I asked was, ‘What have been your favorite stops?’ Almost everyone included Spearfish Canyon and CRYP. My hope, and belief, is that some of these bicyclists will become supporters of CRYP now that they have seen firsthand the work that is being done here.”
Jodi Erickson, Abbott’s fellow lead organizer, agreed that the Cheyenne River stop was a huge hit.
“Having the coffee shop at our base camp was awesome,” she enthused. “Supper and breakfast were both great meals, and a service group and local youth were there to help unload the trailer, which was a bonus.
“They provided a program filled with good information, and a great group activity,” she continued. “Sleeping in the air-conditioning after a long, hot day and dancing the night away was a blessing. Now I’m thinking that dancing after a 100-mile day just might become a tradition!”
Jessica Andrews Giard, RASDak spokesperson, also said that the RASDak riders were well-hosted on the Cheyenne River reservation.
“After a long, hot day on the road, we had warm showers, plentiful food and a gracious welcome,” she said. “To watch everyone do a round dance together was awesome, so uplifting. We create a community on the bike tour, and that moment at CRYP was fun and joyful for the riders and crew.
“The ride east out of Eagle Butte to the river was gorgeous,” she added. “We got to see the buffalo!”
CRYP Executive Director Julie Garreau joined the riders on the 71-mile leg from Eagle Butte to Gettysburg. She said RASDak is so much more than a bike ride across South Dakota.
“It brings people together,” she said. “It educations, and it fosters reconciliation. While the riders were visiting CRYP, we were able to share so much about our mission, and about the relevant, meaningful work that takes place here every day. We also were able to share Lakota culture, and joined together in a traditional round dance to Lakota drum music.
“It was beautiful to share CRYP’s story and expand our circle of friends,” she said. “Every new friendship allows us to continue our good work, here and beyond our borders.”
For Garreau, a treasured RASDak memory is the crowdfunding campaign that friends and supporters started to replace her bicycle, which was stolen the week before the ride. Thanks to many generous contributions, she was able to replace the bike in time for the Gettysburg leg on June 9.
Erickson’s favorite memory comes from Weimar’s Diner & Donuts in Sturgis. Hungry riders swarmed the shop, and workers gave one rider cash to give to CRYP when they heard the ride supported a good cause.
Abbott said his favorite memory also involved a donation. A woman gave all the money she had — $5.12 — to a Michigan bicyclist named Dale when she heard it would benefit CRYP.
“When he approached me, I could tell he was really impacted by what had happened earlier that Saturday morning,” Abbott recalled. “When he shared what had happened, we both got a little emotional. I didn’t ask him any questions about the woman. I think it’s best that she remains anonymous; however, I hope she learns what a big impact her actions had on so many people.
“I have a lot of great memories from RASDak 15, but this will be the most memorable one,” he said.
A priest from Sioux Falls was on the ride, and when he heard the story, he told Abbott that it reminded him of the Widow’s Two Mites in Luke 21:1-4: “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.’”
For information about the annual RASDak ride, visit www.rasdak.com. You also can follow RasDak on Facebook and Twitter.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.