If you’re lucky, you’ve got good friends who can convince you to become a Cycle Oregon rider. If you’re really lucky, those friends are Candlelighters. Jim Ruble is one really lucky guy.
Candlelighters for Children With Cancer is an Oregon-based nonprofit organization that provides support, education, advocacy and hope to children, families and communities affected by childhood cancer. The organization raises money in several different ways. Our personal favorite is their Ride for a Child program, which raises money for the organization and honors children from the regions we visit each year during the Week Ride. In 12 years, the Ride for a Child program has raised nearly $1.2 million.
Jim has been riding as a Candlelighter for the past seven years, and has served on the organization’s board. He has come to appreciate the strength of a group of individuals riding together for a common cause. He also believes that when it comes to this kind of work, you get out more than you can ever put in.
One of the things that impressed him most was that 96 percent of all the money raised by the team of more than 50 riders who participate every year goes directly to the families in need of support. All riders are encouraged to try their hand at raising funds, and the organization provides coaching and ideas on how to make that happen. According to Jim, it’s a great way to step out and learn fundraising if it’s something you’ve never done before.
Candlelighters are easy to spot on the course – they’re wearing their signature light-blue and yellow jerseys with a child’s name on the back. They also camp together and have events in camp with the families and kids they’re honoring. Participation is open to everyone, and interested parties should visit the website for more information. Any Cycle Oregon rider is also free to make a donation whether or not you’re a member, and all Candlelighters can tell you how.
Jim was also one of the participants in this year’s CO3. Not surprisingly, he was intrigued by the prospect of meeting with the community leaders and other interesting speakers, which he found every bit as enjoyable as the ride (and he thought the ride was pretty darn enjoyable).
One of the speakers was Inga Thompson, a champion bike racer who advocates for quality women’s cycling and the importance of making competitive cycling a dope-free sport. That particular conversation must have been as compelling for Inga as it was for the participants, because Inga is now planning to ride this year’s Week Ride – as a Candlelighter.
On Cycle Oregon
His affiliation with the Candlelighters isn’t the only thing that keeps Jim coming back. Like so many others, it’s the friendships built on the road that become a vital part of the experience. It’s also the organization. “They’ve done their homework and thought of a thousand little details that all combine to make the ride incredibly enjoyable,” he says.
In terms of tips for new riders, Jim says it’s important to enjoy the music in camp and get out every night and dance – his theory is that it’s a good way to flush the legs of lactic acid.
So if you want to meet Jim on this year’s ride, say “Hi” to all the Candlelighters you meet – or strap on your dancing shoes.