Beyond Expectations: A Brief History of Rodman Ride for Kids

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Like anyone who has ever quickly closed a deal, Ed Kelley wondered if he should have asked for more.

As president of The Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, a nonprofit that operates programs and services for at-risk youth and families, Ed Kelley had one thing in mind that day. To convince Don Rodman, the founder and president of Rodman Ford, to sponsor his two-year old biking event.

1989: A GOOD START

The 100-mile cycling tour was off to a good start. In 1989, it raised $6,000. The picture at the top shows the bikers at the starting line near Boston Common. The back of the VW was the “water stop”!

“The ride was our first fundraising event ever,” said Ed. “Twenty-one riders rode from Boston to Clinton, Massachusetts.”

The following year the ride raised $11,000. But to grow the event, Ed needed a corporate partner to help underwrite expenses.

“I went to see Don Rodman because he had a reputation for two things: philanthropy and no-nonsense,” said Ed.

Ed was only a few moments into his pitch when Don stopped him: “How much do you want?” Unfazed, Ed continued his presentation. Again, Don interrupted. “Ed, how much do you want?”

“$5,000,” Ed replied.

 

1991: THE RIDE GETS A NAME CHANGE

In 1991, the first Rodman Ride for Kids started and ended in Foxboro, Massachusetts. It raised $30,000, which all went to the RFK Chidlren’s Action Corps. Each year, the Ride attracted more riders and raised more money. But Don knew there was room to grow.

But first he had to talk to Ed.

“I was hesitant,” said Ed. “How do you go back to your board and tell them them you just turned over your biggest event to someone else?” Still, Ed trusted Don’s vision, leadership and generosity.

“Suprisingly, I was at a check presentation for another fundraiser when it struck me that we could grow exponentially if we involved more nonprofits, said Don. “It was all about creating more capacity so we could help more kids.”

1994: BIG CHANGES PRODUCE BIG RESULTS

In 1994, several new agencies, including The Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester and the Italian Home for Children, joined the event. All the nonprofits involved in the ride were committed to the same thing: helping at-risk kids and families.

That same year, Rodman Ride  added the 25 and 50 mile routes, which increased the appeal of the ride to recreational riders. Don also introduced an incentive match that continues today. He matches the total monies raised by each charity with a ten percent match.

But the real power of Rodman Ride lies in the opportunity it gives nonprofits to raise money through a professionally organized and expense-free event.

Expenses for the ride are 2.3%of the total revenue, and they are all underwritten. When you donate to the Ride for Kids, 100% goes directly to at-risk kids.

Over the years, the ride has added more agencies. They’ve worked collaboratively with Don and his team to produce a better and more successful event.

“The cooperation among our agency leaders is like no other organization,” said Don. “Dozens of nonprofit leaders sit around our boardroom table and share fundraising strategies.”

“Instead of competing with one another, they work together toward a common goal: improving the lives of at-risk kids,” added Don.

THE RIDE TODAY

Nearly twenty-five years later, the ride continues to grow. Since 1991, it has raised over $82 million and is the most successful one-day athletic fundraiser for at-risk kids in the country. In 2013 alone, the Ride raised $11 million.

Ed Kelley speaks for many of the affiliates when he highlights one of the lesser known benefits of Rodman Ride.

“My staff loves the event,” said Ed. “It’s a great morale builder, and it builds a positive connection among riders, staff and board members.”

Ed may not have asked Don for as much as he should have in 1991. But RFK Children’s Action Corps, and many other organizations, have received much more than they ever expected from Rodman Ride for Kids.