The New England Parkinson’s Ride raises money for medical research to find a cure for Parkinson’s and to support those currently living with the disease. To cast your vote, use the social media buttons to share this story, or leave a comment below. If the nonprofit reaches 500 votes, the $5,000 donation they’ve already earned doubles to $10,000!
The New England Parkinson’s Ride has two primary goals. First, to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which supports researchers around the world in their quest for better treatments, and ultimately, a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Second, to support the hundreds of people in the agency’s local area living with the disease, and their loved ones, by providing a way to be directly involved in working towards a cure. Open to cyclists of all ages and abilities, the ride has created a sense of community among people affected by the struggles of living with Parkinson’s Disease.
A family affair
Advantage Insurance owners Chris and Terry Woods, along with Chris’s parents, Edna and Bob, founded the ride in 2008 because there was no other cycling event supporting Parkinson’s research in the Northeast. It also had a personal dimension for them as Chris, an avid cyclist, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was 41 years old.
Terry Woods (left) and Chris Woods (center), owners of Advantage Insurance, cross the finish line of the 100-mile New England Parkinson’s Ride along with fellow cyclists.
During the Ride’s first year, they recruited 37 cyclists and raised $27,000. Since then, it has grown into the largest fundraising event in the country for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, raising more than $8 million to date. The ride officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2013.
A year-round effort
Pulling off this impressive event has become a year-round effort. Led by full-time Executive Director Cindy Woods Theberge, who is Chris’s sister, the nonprofit has a part-time supporting staff, a board of nine dedicated officers and more than 250 volunteers. With Cindy at the helm, the team organizes the more than 1,300 cyclists who annually navigate four routes near Old Orchard Beach, Maine, that range from 10 to 100 miles around. Volunteers also provide support at a dozen rest stops. Along with riding the 100-mile route and personally raising more than $10,000 each year, Chris has also served as Chairman of the Board of the nonprofit since 2018. In addition, the agency staff also helps with a wide variety of tasks in support of the cause.
Chris Woods celebrates with his mother, and nonprofit co-founder, Edna Woods, after finishing the 100-mile New England Parkinson’s Ride.
Wheels of fortune
After raising more than $1.3 million in 2019, the ride was forced to change its approach in 2020 due to the global pandemic. Rather than risk losing momentum by taking the year off, Executive Director Cindy Theberge got creative and formed the “Cycling in Sync” program to keep things rolling. This effort included recruiting cyclists from every U.S. state, plus six other countries, to ride on the same day in different places around the world. The result was more than a thousand cyclists coming together to raise more than $1.1 million for Parkinson’s research.
“This year we had the exciting return of cyclists to an in-person event, while, continuing the new tradition of Cycling In Sync across the nation,” said Theberge. “The 2021 ride has raised nearly $1.3 million so far, with fundraising continuing through the end of the year.”
This past year, Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance employees, Michael Cushman and Forrest Oberst, volunteered at the event, helping with watering stations and welcoming the cyclists across the finish line.
An early morning start to a ride in September 2021.
This year we had the exciting return of cyclists to an in-person event, while continuing the new tradition of Cycling In Sync across the nation. The 2021 ride has raised nearly $1.3 million so far, with fundraising continuing through the end of the year.
– Cindy Woods Theberge, Executive Director, New England Parkinson’s Ride
Continuing the cycle of giving
In these challenging times, a $10,000 donation from Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance would help the nonprofit reach their annual fundraising goal to give to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research.