How I joined the BA ride and raised the money

October 1, 1996

In the middle of June I still wasn't sure what to do during the summer vacation. I had been separated for two years and my daughters were somehow not interested at all to do anything together with me this passing summer. So I once walked into the Manitoba Sports building in Winnipeg and picked up some information brochures. One of them was for the Bike Atlanta ride. I was very interested at once: (a) I was looking for something at least a bit adventurous; (b) I wanted to do a long distance bicycle ride some time; (c) I was not fully equipped to go on an unsupported ride; (d) I had not yet visited the central US states; (e) and I thought it would be great if I could help somebody in addition to having an interesting vacation. I have heard about the Habitat for Humanity before, I knew that there was a Jimmy Carter work project in Winnipeg a few years ago, but not much more than that. I was curious to learn more.

Nevertheless, I was also afraid of two things:

  1. I had no idea at all how to raise the required $4000, where to start. Though I have been living in Canada for 11 years out of the last 13, I must say that the Bike Atlanta ride and the related fundraising was probably my first full immersion into the Canadian (or North-American) everyday life. Perhaps I should better say that I have been only working in Canada for those 11 years. Because until about 3 years ago I was living in the Czech micro-environment of my family and since then (and partially even before that) mainly in the imaginary world of my mind having just a few friends all over the world (some of them I haven't met in person yet).
  2. Though I have been cycling a lot since childhood, I had never took part in any bicycle races and in June I had no idea what my abilities were compared to the other BA participants; I wasn't sure whether I was fit enough to complete the ride because I hadn't felt very well at the end of the 1995/96 long Manitoba winter and hadn't done much riding before June because of the cold and rainy spring.

After hesitating for a few days, on Friday, June 21, I sent out the an e-mail note to many of my coworkers to find out whether somebody would be willing to sponsor me at all. I started with e-mail because that's the medium I have been most familiar with. And the next day I took my bike and rode from Pinawa to the Big Whiteshell Lake (my favourite place) in the Whiteshell Provincial Park and back (about 170 km) in about 9 hours (including all the stops). After that I started to think that I might have a chance to complete the Bike Atlanta ride.

Then by the next Tuesday I got some positive responses to my e-mail inquiry with the first pledges totaling a few hundred dollars. And so I phoned Monique at the Winnipeg Habitat's office to sign me up for the ride ...

Then came the hard part of trying to raise those $4000 in the remaining 6 weeks (and at the same time to practise some more cycling). As I have no connections to wealthy corporate donors, I had to rely on individual contributions. Together with the fact sheets from the Winnipeg Habitat for Humanity, I have been distributing my own letter. Here are excerpts from it:

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization. It constructs new cheap houses on donated land or renovates old houses, and then offers them to eligible working families with children living at or below the poverty line for purchase at cost with 0 interest mortgages (you can think of this program as an attempt to give all the children as equal opportunities as possible, which is something I strongly believe in). These families are also required to invest at least 500 hours of their own labour ("sweat equity") in the construction of their or other houses. The price of a 760 sqft. Winnipeg Habitat for Humanity house is about $55,000, and the monthly payment (incl. mortgage, taxes, insurance) is $400 - 500.

The price of houses is kept down by volunteer work and donations from various sources (churches, individuals, companies, service clubs, private foundations, building material suppliers). One of the ways how to raise awareness of the Habitat's mission and to raise funds is to organize annual long-distance bicycle rides. In the first such ride from Winnipeg, 12 cyclists rode 1,000 km to Eagle Butte, SD in 1994 raising $35,000. Last year 50 cyclists rode 4,000 km to Los Angeles and raised $206,000.

This year, about 65 cyclists will ride from Winnipeg to Atlanta, GA on August 10 - 30 to arrive there for the 20th anniversary celebration of Habitat's being formally established as a non-profit organization. We will be joined on the way by a group of Habitat riders from Waterloo, Ontario and other groups from Kentucky and Tennessee.

Each Winnipeg rider is expected to raise $4,000 in cash donations prior to the ride. ...

P.S. For those of you, who enjoy surfing the Net, a Winnipeg's Bike Atlanta Web site is under construction where you would be able to follow our progress along the route (that site unfortunately disappeared since then). You can also have a look at the last year's Bike L.A. (1995) page at:

Habitat Canada home page is at: (since July it has moved to

Waterloo's Bike Atlanta information can be found at: (since July this has moved to; also disappeared later).

The most effective approach proved to be the personal door to door canvasing. I have summarized the results of my fundraising in the following e-mail note to my sponsors at AECL:
Subject: Bike Atlanta
Date: Thursday, August 08, 1996 12:52PM

This is to remind you that the official send-off of the BA ride takes place
at the steps of the Manitoba legislature  9 - 9:30 am on Saturday, Aug. 10.
There will be speeches of the official representatives of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, sponsors and organizers.

For your curiosity,
so far I have collected about $3,750 of donations. About half of it, $1,856,
came from the AECL employees, that is from you, the recipients of this
message, although I may have forgotten to include of few in the address list.
Another $1,091.10 came from other residents and businesses of Pinawa,
$138.50 from the other residents of LDB, $127.00 from the other residents of
Winnipeg, $18.00 from the other res. of Seven Sisters, $12.00 each from
Selkirk and Gimli, about $344 (a single cheque for US$250) came from the US
and the remaining $150 is half of the price of the BA T-shirts and other
stuff I sold (or kept for myself), all of it in Pinawa.

Thank you again for your support,


Since returning from Atlanta, I have received some more donations, and at present (October 1, 1996) my total is $4013!

A few more remarks on the subject of fundraising can be found on the next page.


I can say in advance that this immersion was a rather smooth, pleasant experience, perhaps because of the somewhat "crazy" nature of people who go on long distance bicycle rides, and who were quickly able to act almost like a big family and share their craziness.

Go back to my Bike Atlanta Page