MILLEDGEVILLE — Trevion Belton, 13, has been a bicycling enthusiast for the past two years since joining the Baldwin Dream Team. Along with three other youth riders, he is in the midst of preparing to participate in the Bicycle Club of Milledgeville’s annual April Fools Ride with a 50-mile ride Saturday.
“When I first joined the Dream Team, I was [overweight],” said the Oak Hill Middle School eighth-grader. “In Milledgeville, there’s nothing that really represents Milledgeville, so it’s great to have an actual team to represent with.”
An Atlanta-based nonprofit, The Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) Dream Team is a group of middle school students from across the state. BRAG sponsors the cross-state bicycle ride in June. Since its inception in 1994, school students from low-income families have been selected to participate on the Dream Team and have received bicycles, helmets, shorts and other accessories, complimentary meals and waived registration fees, states the BRAG website.
“I got inspired in 2008 when I participated in BRAG. I learned about the Dream Team and I wanted to know if there was anything I could locally. Being a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters, I had access to young people, and then we just decided to start a local chapter in 2011,” said Dr. Doug Keith, an adult mentor and coordinator of the Baldwin Dream Team along with Joe Windish. “Our goal that year was to develop a core group of young riders to ride in the April Fools Ride in spring 2012. We had some bicycles donated, and the kids who reached that goal of riding that ride got to keep their bicycles.”
Local Dream Teams that complete BRAG each year get to keep their bike, helmet and other accessories. As Windish and Keith help prepare the current four members to complete the rigorous ride, Keith said BRAG cannot provide financial support to local Dream Teams this year.
“BRAG cannot support the state-wide Dream Team because they don’t have enough resources. This year, the Dream Team is spending all of its efforts establishing itself,” Keith said. “Because our local club has made a commitment to our young riders, we’re going to ride in BRAG this year, but don’t know if we will have the support.”
The Baldwin Dream Team’s other members are students from Georgia College Early College, TyQuerius Butts; Oak Hill Middle School, Isaac Hard and Maquavious Hall; and Baldwin High School, Skylar Hard.
“These riders have kept training between a year and a year and a half now. We try to ride between 15 and 20 miles each Saturday around the [Baldwin County Airport]. Sometimes the members of the local bicycle club join us, which is really nice because it’s more bodies on the road to make us more visible,” Keith said. “These guys are ready to do the April Fools Ride again.”
With limited funds and resources, the Baldwin Dream Team seeks funds and donations of bicycles and safety gear, with hopes of obtaining $6,000 by May.
“We want to buy bicycles for the riders so they can actually use them in BRAG. We also need biking shorts and helmets, and if we receive enough funds, then it can help pay for registration. We need adult-size helmets, and if anyone has a usable bicycle that they’re not using, then we’re more than happy to put it in good use,” Keith said. “Right now we’re using donated bicycles, but they’re mostly heavy mountain bikes, which are not good for long-distance on roads.”
The local team plans to ride 50 miles in the St. Patrick’s Century Ride in Dublin Saturday as they prepare for this year’s April Fools Ride, which is slated to kick off at 8 a.m. Saturday, March 30 at Central State Hospital’s Powell Building parking lot. The seventh annual event will coincide with the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority community festival and Z97 FM Easter Egg hunt. Various family entertainment will be available, including food, music, arts and crafts, a farmer’s market, Easter egg hunting and a bike rodeo. Routes will include a five-mile fun ride around the CSH campus, as well as 20-, 50- and 75-mile options available.
The local Dream Team chapter also plans to participate in the BRAG Spring Tune-Up Ride in Madison April 5 to 7.
“The decision on who will take on BRAG will be made at the BRAG Spring Tune-Up Ride. Unlike BRAG, it doesn’t move from town to town. It will be a three-day ride where we will do 100 miles each day around Madison, and riders get to sleep in a tent. The BRAG ride is June 2 through 8. This year it will start in Cordele and ends in St. Marys on the coast. Last year the ride was very hilly, but this year it will be flat,” Keith said. “We’re also looking to develop a new name of the team, so we would like to get some ideas and feedback.”
The overall purpose of the Baldwin Dream Team is to turn youth into life-long bicyclists.
“For us, it’s about long-term riding; not speed. Unlike most teen sports, this is something you can do all your life. I got on a bike at the age of 6, and I haven’t gotten off since,” Keith said. “This also ties in really well with the goals of the community to be more healthy and bike friendly. The riders have done the work and we just want to keep our commitment to them and support them in BRAG this year.”
For more information about the Baldwin Dream Team, to donate funds and bicycling equipment, or to join, call (478) 216-RIDE (7433) or email email@example.com.
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