By Kaitlyn Worachek
For The Patriot
For a quarter of a century, the Habitat 500 Bike Ride has sent cyclists across Minnesota, biking 500 miles to raise funds and awareness to help Habitat for Humanity build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the ride, which runs from July 9 through July 15. The ride is coordinated by Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota. Cyclists will begin in Victoria with overnight stops in Hutchinson, Sauk Rapids, Forest Lake, and Cannon Falls before returning to Victoria.
Since Habitat Minnesota took over coordination of the ride in 2002, the Habitat 500 Bike Ride has raised $4.6 million to support Habitat for Humanity home construction. The ride has contributed to Minnesota’s Habitat affiliates building 2,500 homes. Such success would not have been possible without the dedication and support of the riders and volunteers, many of whom have been participating in the ride for years.
Waconia’s Vicki Sorensen joined the Habitat 500 in 2007, to fill the much-needed position of nurse. She has missed only one year since then and is excited that part of the route will be close to her home this year. She comes back to the Ride each year because “it has been another way to volunteer and give back.”
As a volunteer, Sorensen’s time with the Ride has involved plenty of direct support, whether that means simply being on hand in case of any medical issues or actually addressing emergencies. Over the last 10 years, Sorensen remembers “the times that I had to ride or sit with a biker in the ambulance, hospital, or clinic.” Riders were certainly lucky to have her there.
Sorensen has seen the effort that riders and volunteers pour into the week.
“It’s a lot of work,” she says about the Ride, “but there is a sense of accomplishment every day and especially at the end.”
For riders, this accomplishment can come from a variety of places, whether that’s completing the day’s mileage, making it over a tall hill, or simply getting back on the bike after a tough day or injury.
However, the ride’s impact is more than just the physical biking.
During the week, riders and volunteers have the chance to help with a Habitat home build. For Sorensen, the time when she was able “to help on a build” is one of her best memories. The ride has its biggest impact “when you see personally the families that are being helped and the chance that having a good home will make a difference for these families,” says Sorensen.
As a longtime volunteer, Sorensen has had the opportunity to see many families and even more riders impacted by the Ride.
“The faces of the riders when they accomplish that 500 miles is priceless,” says Sorensen. Their reaction, as well as “knowing that the money they raise goes to help so many in need with great homes,” is the best aspect of the Ride for Sorensen. Great volunteers like “Nurse Vicki” Sorensen will allow Habitat 500 riders to continue biking safely, mile after mile, for years to come.
For more information on how to get involved, please visit www.habitat500.org.