(If you want to help Cast a Shadow raise funds for clean water filters in Ghana or a cause closer to home, you can donate here.)
I first heard of “Cast a Shadow” through a friend with whom I go to church. Nate Anderson had seen me in a Critical Mass of two hundred cyclists the previous Friday playing cat and mouse with the Santa Monica Police Department and wanted to talk.
Not about politics or Critical Mass, but about bikes.
A dedicated cyclist, Anderson may own more jerseys from various rides he’s ridden than street clothes. During that first conversation in 2008, Anderson had just joined a group called Cast a Shadow, a team of cyclists that raises money for charitable causes both domestically and internationally by soliciting pledges for multi-day rides through. Cast a Shadow also runs a local mentoring program to help youth get training and single parents, especially single mothers, get vocational training.
“Cast a Shadow was a vision of mine when I worked in Puerto Vallarta,” remembers Jay Szczypiorski, the non-profit’s founder. Szczypiorski was inspired by a video of Terry Fox, a Canadian who ran from coast to coast to raise funds for cancer research. Fox only had one leg. At the same time, Szczypiorski was reading the Bible and came on the story of how the sick and disadvantaged lined the streets to touch the shadow of St. Peter as he passed in hopes of being cured.
Thus the name, “Cast a Shadow” was born.
“At that point I was racing , but I liked the thought of riding with a purpose behind it. Why can’t we cast a shadow with our bikes as we ride across our nation, cities and towns?” Szczypiorski thought.
When Szczypiorski mentioned “riding with a purpose,” I paused. Anderson often uses the same words when discussing his involvement with the group. Completing all those miles with a group of like-minded people creates a familial bond between Cast a Shadow members, but it was the purpose that drew them in, and the purpose that keeps them coming back.
On Sunday, Cast a Shadow embarks on it’s next trip to raise funds for individual water filtration systems for residents un rural Ghana. Each filtration system costs only $25 and could literally provide clean water for households for years. Next week’s trip will take Cast a Shadow on a six hundred mile seven day jaunt through Northern California on a ride that will take them through Eureka, around Crater Lake and up Mt. Shasta. There will be three days of riding, an off day, and 300 more days of riding.
“It’s not about the bike, it’s about raising the money,” adds Szczypiorski. Despite the training needed to complete such a run, he insists that anyone can join them. Some cyclists have completed rides over 1,000 miles with less than six months training. When one is riding to literally provide clean water for a family, the burden is lighter.
But even those that aren’t riding can contribute. 12 cyclists will be supported by a team of eighteen volunteers who will do everything from handle the motel reservations to cook their meals.
“We’re treated like pros,” says Szczypiorski. But all accommodations are paid for by the riders and volunteers. Every cent donated to Cast a Shadow as a pledge goes directly to the charity or cause to which that ride is dedicated. Cast a Shadow works with another non-profit, Cornerstone Charities, to use the donations to distribute the equipment in Ghana.
For those interested in the biking, Cast a Shadow does offer a unique bicycling experience. Over the miles, riders have learned to ride together, sometimes in a peloton formation through some amazing parts of the country. Yes, the group is planning on spinning off with a race team, but that idea came after thousands of miles on the road together. Previous Cast a Shadow rides have traveled through mountains in Utah and all over California.
Cast a Shadow doesn’t create overall goals for each ride, but does encourage each rider to create personal fundraising goals. For Anderson, the goal for Sunday’s ride was $2,000. “Did you make it?” I asked. He did.
That’s 80 water filtration systems. Not bad for a week’s work.