Major Team Does Major Good
The Optum Pro Cycling Team, presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies.
The world of professional cycling is a ferocious place. Athletes work hard to be at their best, spend their time on the road, and such a demanding schedule can turn anyone into a selfish being. Yet, there are exceptions and the Optum Pro Cycling Team, presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies, is one of them. Early on, the team has felt a deep connection with the people World Bicycle Relief supports, as they too depend on pedaling for a living.
The main drivers of this charitable initiative are Optum team members Alex Candelario, 37, and Scott Zwisanski, 35. Both traveled to Zambia in 2008 to see first-hand the work accomplished by World Bicycle Relief. “Most of us know what it’s like to get on a new bike, race bike, training bike, whatever, getting on a new bike for the first ride is the best. And they [children they visited in Zambia] were all getting to experience that. And they were so thankful for it, it was awesome,” said Zwisanski during an interview, last May. When Zwisanski is not racing, he is hosting skills clinic to raise awareness and funds.
With a collective fundraising goal of $67,000, the equivalent of 500 bicycles, the team riders are keeping busy when off their bikes and are going out of their way to bring the power of bicycles to people in rural Africa. Here are some of the most recent events organized by the team riders:
A special retirement party – Last October, Jesse Anthony, seven-time Cyclocross National Champion, dedicated his last race to raise funds and awareness in support of World Bicycle Relief before hanging up his bike for good. Anthony raised $6,700!
Make some waves (or curls)! One of the most creative fundraising efforts comes from team member, Tom Zirbel, 33. His OPTUMiZ (Ostentatious Perm to Uplift Mobility in Zambia) project was carried out over two months prior to Stage 5 of the Amgen Tour de California, during which months Zirbel grew his hair and got a perm. In exchange, he asked people to support his classy curly hair adventure by donating a few dollars. Needless to say those supporters must have loved it because Zirbel is the current fundraising leader, with $2,756 fundraised.
The melody of hope – Last Thursday, Chad Haga, 23, hosted a piano concert in Loveland, CO. Haga, who had been playing piano since fifth grade, rehearsed for several weeks to prepare for this exquisite charitable concert. A group of close supporters were serenated to Chopin and others. “I was trying to find something unique to raise money for WBR, racking my brain, and decided to just stick with what I know,” Haga said. “I know how to play the piano […], so that's what I did!”
Beer for Bikes – Coming up on Sunday, July 22, is the Beer for Bikes fundraising event, hosted by GoodLife Brewing Company, in Bend, OR. The Optum Pro Cycling Team presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies will be present and all the proceeds will benefit World Bicycle Relief.
Needless to say this team is a very special bunch. Everyone at World Bicycle Relief is honored to receive the support of professional athletes who are willing to give their extra time and help bring educational opportunity, economic stability and improved healthcare to children, women and men in rural Africa. Thank you Optum Pro Cycling Team for your ingenuity, support and dedication!