A group of 45 cyclists departed from the Neosho National Fish Hatchery early Saturday morning, setting out on three different routes to raise money for Access Family Care’s free dental clinics and for the Joplin Trails Coalition’s Rails to Trails project.
The second annual Trout Run took the participants of the 25-mile ride through Aroma to Stark City, then back through Monarch Springs to Neosho.
Cyclists completing the 54-mile ride pedaled through Aroma, Stark City, Stella, Wanda, Fairview, Monarch Springs and back to Neosho.
The longest route, the 103-mile path, stretched from Neosho to Cassville and back to Neosho, with cyclists passing through Aroma, Monarch Springs, Stark City, Wanda, Stella, Fairview, Purdy and Butterfield.
Bill Barnard, a Joplin resident who participated in Saturday’s ride, said the ride was his fourth century this year.
“It’s one of the hardest I’ve ever done, lots of hills and the roads are rough, really rough,” Barnard said.
Barnard was one of the first 103-mile riders to make it back to the hatchery Saturday, arriving with another cyclist around 1:15 p.m.
Organizers said 45 bicyclists participated in Saturday’s ride, down five people from last year’s inaugural event.
Don McBride, CEO of Access Family Care and the main organizer and creator of the Trout Run, said the ride is intended to help raise money for the two causes as well as to offer cyclists an opportunity to get out and ride.
“I’m a cyclist and I enjoy riding and I know that there’s just not a lot of venues out there for cyclists,” McBride said.
Last year, the event raised under $1,000, though McBride said the event this year raised approximately $1,300 prior to Saturday’s ride.
However, that number has grown, as 18 more cyclists registered the day of the event.
McBride said events such as Saturday’s ride help to make Access Family Care’s free dental clinics possible.
“It comes back to the old concept of the MASH camp, we actually go into schools with the portable dental equipment, set it up in schools and we do services there,” McBride said. “We’re providing free services, we need to cover the cost of that for children who need care.”
McBride said the free dental clinics have set up in several local schools and provide an array of dental services free of charge, much more than just a teeth cleaning, he said.
“We do full service, for major stuff we’ll ask them to come into the clinic, but virtually everything can be done right there,” McBride said. “It’s not just the teeth cleaning, we go out and provide real care. We’ve heard some just tremendous, awesome stories about the difference we’re making, so it’s exciting.”
He said the portable dental care clinics are intended to help the children who have barriers keeping them from attending the dentist, whether it be cost, lack of insurance, or lack of transportation.
In addition, part of the proceeds raised will also help the Joplin Trails Coalition to offer paths for Southwest Missouri cyclists to ride, as they work to maintain abandoned railways that have been converted into biking and walking trails through their Rails to Trails project.
According to their website, two of the coalition’s current trails projects are the Frisco Greenway Trail, running through Joplin and Webb City, and the Ruby Jack Trail, which runs from Carthage through Oronogo, Carl Junction and on to the Kansas state line.
“It’s always good to support a cause,” said cyclist Tyler Swift, who completed 80 miles in Saturday’s Trout Run.
Swift, a Neosho native who now lives in Springfield, just took up cycling this year.
He completed the Jomonola bike ride in June, riding 821 miles in 10 days, from Joplin to New Orleans, La. to raise money for disaster victims to build homes.
He said the multi-state ride was his first, and was what sparked his interest in cycling.
“I had a couple friends that were doing it and talked me into it,” Swift said.
On Saturday, he returned to his hometown to take part in another ride for a cause.
“A lot of my friends that I’ve been riding with wanted to do it and it’s my hometown so I thought I’d come back and go for a ride,” Swift said. “It was difficult, a lot of hills, well supported though.”
McBride said the ride included several rest stops, with food and drinks offered from multiple local sponsors.
He said riders could hit a rest stop about every 10 to 15 miles, and noted the importance of keeping replenished.
“You burn a lot of calories riding,” McBride said. “A 54-mile rider, they probably burn a couple thousand calories, so imagine what the 100-mile would be. They have to keep replenished.”
Mitchell’s Downtown Drug Store sponsored a stop in Fairview, Connell Insurance gave one at Sweetwater Baptist Church, Vida Abundante offered a rest stop at Stark City and Access Family Care held rest stops in Purdy and Cassville.
The riders were also offered lunch at the end of their ride.
In addition, McBride said the event offered several door prizes and drawings for the cyclists.