Started in 1999, the Cartersville Century has flourished through the years, now drawing nearly 1,000 participants from throughout the Southeast. The event, which also offers cyclists rest stops about every 10 miles along the course and a post-ride meal, has grown into the largest single fundraiser for the local Boys & Girls Clubs, with this year's event expected to net about $50,000. With the fundraiser estimated to account for about 14 percent of the Boys & Girls Clubs' $350,000 annual budget, recruiting riders and sponsors for the Cartersville Century is integral to the nonprofit's success.
"I think the first year we had 120 riders and this is our 12th event and there'll be in excess of 1,000 riders and/or volunteers," said Gordon Gilley, chief professional officer for Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County Inc. "Riders from throughout the Southeast [are participating] and this year we've even got a big group coming from Pennsylvania and the Carolinas.
"So our pre-registration is up about 30 percent from last year. Philanthropic trends [report] special events are down across the board since 2007 about 40 percent. We've been very fortunate to sustain and even we think this year to grow it. The last couple of years have been real stable, around 850 to 900 riders, and this year we expect it probably [to reach] about 1,000."
In addition to its scenic course and the sport's popularity, the event's chairman Walt Sullins believes the fact that the benefit supports the Boys & Girls Clubs attributes to its success. The nonprofit serves more than 400 children a day with its summer program, offering youth ages 6 to 18 supplemental education and activities like arts and crafts, basketball and board games.
"For a lot of kids, [the Boys & Girls Clubs] is the only real guidance they've got," Sullins said. "We have programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs. We help with homework. We teach them activities. They have social interaction. They have a lot of things to keep them off the streets.
"Gordon uses the term sometimes -- a lot of times we're their only 'moral compass.' We try to point them in a direction they need to be going. A lot of kids don't have anywhere else to go."
To participate in the Cartersville Century, cyclists can register at the event at 6 a.m. or sign up online at www.cartersvillecentury.org. Starting and ending at Dellinger Park in Cartersville, the 8 a.m. ride features four distances for individuals to select from: 15 miles, 30 miles, 50 miles and 100 miles. Entry fees are $35 per person.
For more information, contact Gilley at 770-382-5500 or visit www.cartersvillecentury.org.