CYCLING: Teamwork makes Agony Ride fundraiser possible |

CYCLING: Teamwork makes Agony Ride fundraiser possible

Jennifer Palmer
Submitted to The Union

A mile on a bicycle. A cold drink on a hot day. A word of encouragement.

Can such small, ordinary things make a difference?

For the organizers of Christian Encounter Ranch’s 37th Annual Agony Ride, set for Friday and Saturday in the Sierra Valley, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

On their own, the everyday tasks performed at CER’s primary fundraiser don’t look like much. Participants ride their bikes, beginning with a single pedal stroke. But that pedal stroke, offered in love, is followed by another, and another, and another, until, combined with the efforts of others over the course of 24 hours, the cumulative effect has the power to change lives.

Last year, all of those pedal strokes added up to a combined total of 17,062 miles ridden and more than $220,000 raised. If the ministry hits its goal of $230,000 this year, it will be the fourth consecutive record-breaking year for the fundraiser.

Eighty riders are committed to giving their all in order to meet that goal, but they won’t be out there alone.

As riders pump out the miles, more than one hundred volunteer saggers (short for Support and Gear) work behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly: filling water bottles, preparing food, transporting bags from one aid station to another, tracking riders’ progress, logging sponsorships, repairing bikes, patrolling the course, providing massages and encouragement, and monitoring participants’ health.

Even those who are unable to be physically present offer support from home: last year, some 1,600 people sponsored riders and several hundred more sent personal messages of encouragement via

Without the help of saggers and the financial support of donors, the ride would not be possible. Each job, no matter how small, matters.

Caryn Galeckas, the event director, puts it this way, “I am always deeply moved to see everyone coming together, serving one another. The riders serve our residents by riding, and our residents serve the riders in return. The volunteers serve riders, residents, and each other, and get to experience an amazing event. Saggers come away encouraged and inspired. It is the Body of Christ in action — the Church as it is meant to be.”

Indeed, the defining feature of the Agony Ride is not the amount of money it raises, but the spirit of love it embodies. The very ethos of the event is one of community and teamwork.

In this way, the Agony Ride is a microcosm of the ministry it helps to fund.

Residents ages 16-25 come to CER’s property on Retrac Way in Grass Valley to receive love, spiritual guidance, schooling and counseling. As they heal from the wounds inflicted by society, family situations and their own poor choices, they are mentored by ministry interns, who live and work alongside them. Many times, residents go on to become interns themselves: just as their broken lives were restored in Christ, so they too reach out to help the broken around them.

Jackie Turner is one such example. After a childhood filled with abandonment and abuse, she came to CER as a student in 2008. She returned as an intern in 2013. On Friday, she’ll ride in the Agony Ride for the third time. 

Reflecting on her time at CER, she said, “Experiencing love can change anyone. As a student, the Agony Ride revealed to me that God can really reach into the darkest places and shine his light and love. As an intern, the Agony Ride taught me what it was to respond back in love to those who were showing love. As a rider, the Agony Ride shows me how God’s love poured out through his people can turn a life fully around to where they are pouring out their lives for others. The Agony Ride isn’t just a sports event. It is love — love that transforms and restores lives.”

It isn’t too late to be involved: the Agony Ride is still seeking volunteers. Special areas of need include bike mechanics, kitchen helpers, people to transport bags from one station to another, and those who can be on their feet assisting riders. To volunteer, to sponsor a rider, or to follow the progress of the event once it starts, please visit

To learn more about CER, visit

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