Shadow riders cycle for children in South Asia

Gina Grate Pottenger
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
ImageRod Ruger, Ted Diehr and many others may be riding in the shadow of cyclist David Argabright (photo left), but their efforts to help him raise funds for child development centers in South Asia means they’re far from being left in the dust.
 
Through a cross-U.S. bike ride every spring, and tireless year-round promotional efforts, David Argabright’s fundraising organization, Compassion575, has raised $645,000 to build and fund 36 new child development centers (CDCs) in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal since he started the organization in 2008. One hundred percent of all donations go directly to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM), which is responsible for the CDCs.
 
In CDCs, underprivileged children receive an education, health care and nutrition, spiritual and social training, and emotional support. In addition, their families and communities are transformed through a variety of awareness-raising and income-generating measures.
 
A primary way Argabright has raised awareness for Compassion575 has been through his bike rides, which have ranged from 575 miles to more than 3,000 miles.
 
Argabright has not done all of this alone. There is a small but growing grassroots movement of people who call themselves “shadow riders,” which means they shadow Argabright in their own riding to promote the work in South Asia as well.
 
The informal group doesn’t rigidly track members or miles or funds raised. They just urge people to get involved in God’s work in the lives of underprivileged children in South Asia through the work of Nazarene local churches that partner with NCM.
 
ImageRod Ruger (photo left), who attends both Mesa Church of the Nazarene, in Arizona, and Beaverton Nazarene Church, in Oregon, because he spends part of the year in each location, proposed the idea of a shadow riders group to Argabright in 2012, after Argabright had already done four cross-country rides. It was Ruger’s first time to ride part of the way with Argabright to support him.
 
Ruger, who is 69, had first gotten interested in cycling after he underwent cardiac rehabilitation and lost some weight. His physical therapists, who had put him on a stationary bike for training, said he should also consider riding on the road. He enjoyed it so much he began riding long distances regularly.
 
He wrote up a shadow riders proposal for Argabright, who readily agreed with the idea. Argabright shared the idea on his organization’s website.
 
ImageRuger led the way, adding up 3,300 miles over the course of the year. He wore a sign that said “Riding for Compassion575.com” which attracted attention and questions, giving him the chance to promote Compassion575.
 
“A lot of friendly people I’ve become acquainted with while riding, after a while say ‘What is that?’ and I’ll tell them about the ministry. And many times they’ll give me cash or a check and say, ‘This is for the Bangladesh ministry.’ I’d like to get to the point where people will subscribe a nickel or dime per mile. Mostly it’s a one-time gift of $20 or $50 and one couple gave $200. We’re just getting the word out.”
 
In 2013, Ruger rode 4,320 miles. A friend of his in Washington decided to start shadow riding for Compassion575, and so did another friend in Oregon. Soon he and Argabright heard of others who were riding in their own communities for Compassion575.
 
By September 2012, 17 Nazarenes in Gelnhausen, Germany, joined the cause with a shadow ride of their own.
 
Ruger has been invited to share about the shadow riders at Nazarene Mission International conventions and district assemblies in Oregon and California.
 
Ted Diehr, who attends Houston Living Word Church of the Nazarene, in Texas, has been supporting Argabright’s annual ride, as well as riding one day with him each year since 2009. Diehr was inspired to get involved after he’d traveled on a Work & Witness trip to Sri Lanka in 2008 and seen for himself how a CDC was transforming not just the children who attended, but their entire families and village.
 
Image“I see the passion that Dave (photo left) and [his wife] Sharon have for the children and the great eternal reward that I know reaching children will bring. That’s what’s prompted me to stay involved and to support both financially and in terms of riding,” Diehr said.
 
Diehr promotes the shadow riders and Compassion575, helping to raise thousands of dollars by urging friends, family members and coworkers to make pledges together totaling a minimum of $5,000, which his employer matches if they reach that goal.
 
Ruger, Diehr and Argabright hope the shadow riders movement continues to grow. Argabright this spring completed yet another cross-country ride, this time racking up 1,320 miles from Del Rio, Texas, to Nashville, Tennessee, in an attempt to recruit sponsors. It costs $132 to sponsor a child in a CDC for one year.