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Organizer says event exceeded expectations

Wilt thumbAround 2 p.m. on Oct. 15, chants such as "Why are we wearing Spandex? Because we care!" and "Who has a voice? They have a voice!" emerged from bike paths behind the Talisman Centre.

Some 42 cyclists spent the afternoon riding around Calgary to raise money for the displaced, vulnerable and exploited within our city and abroad through the organization Ride for Refuge. The event featured a 10- and 25-kilometre ride, with the longer route cruising through the Occupy Calgary camp, set up the same day as the ride.

Jamie Popoff, organizer of the event, said the ride was very successful.

The goal of $10,000 for the entire ride was surpassed by at least another $2,000 and donations continued to come in at the door.

But fundraising was only part of the ride, he said.

Ride for RefugeCyclists took to Calgary bikepaths this past Saturday for the Ride for Refuge, which raised over $12,000 for Calgary's less fortunate.

Photo by: James Wilt
"The other part, and perhaps this is even bigger, is to know that people are motivated to act to end human trafficking," said Popoff. "Today, these were actions that we could take. It was a great day and a lot of fun."

Nine different teams took part in the event, choosing a specific organization to ride for under the banner of Ride for Refuge. Of the funds raised, 70 per cent was given to those organizations through the ride. The remainder was given to cover event-related expenses.

The three organizations represented in the Calgary ride were Burnt Thicket Theatre, the Association for a More Just Society Canada, and Ratanak International.

Duane Norleen, who led the 10 km route, said it was extremely easy to gain support for the event. Burnt Thicket Theatre was the organization chosen by Norleen and the rest of his team, which also consisted of his son and mother. The six riders raised almost $1,600, he said over a bowl of soup following the race. To raise his portion of the money, he sent out emails to friends.

"Even though this isn't necessarily getting us to grassroots yet, it's a step closer," Norleen said. "A cause like this honestly seems to be one of the easiest things to raise money for. It seems effortless almost."

Wendy Norleen, Duane's mother, agreed.

"It's because you're not doing it for yourself. You're being the catalyst, and it's not personal. It's a cause. People respond more easily to that."

Wendy spoke to people at her church in Okotoks to raise money.

Popoff, who also serves as artistic director of Burnt Thicket Theatre, says the event was encouraging for his own organization because it shows that people are still invested in what Burnt Thicket does.

The theatre group is currently raising money to tour its production about human trafficking, "She Has a Name," which showed in Calgary in late February and early March. The Ride for Refuge event was the second major fundraising campaign that Burnt Thicket has used.

"We just find that as we take each next step, things go beyond what we expected," he says.

Ride for Refuge events have taken place all over Canada and the United States. This year, 4,630 riders raised more than $1 million for 166 partner organizations, which receive 60 to 70 per cent of funds raised.

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