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February 13, 2013

Conway Bike Ride supports those with disabilities and special needs

The day after runners leave their footprints in the 16th annual Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon, another group will pedal the roads, and every participant wins by helping a local cause.

The day after runners leave their footprints in the 16th annual Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon, another group will pedal the roads, and every participant wins by helping a local cause.

The fourth annual Conway Area Bike Ride, a benefit for Horry County Disabilities and Special Needs, departs Sunday morning from downtown Conway with a choice of three routes in distance in miles: 14.2, 33.5 and 63, all to and from the Waccamaw Shrine Club, on Elm Street, near Riverfront Park.

George Ulrich of Conway Area Philanthropists Inc., and ride coordinator since 2009, said this event, the ninth in conjunction with the marathon weekend when it started as the Michelob Ultra Bike Ride, and fourth named after Horry County’s seat, raised $5,000 in 2011, and despite a rainy morning, more than $4,000 last year.

With a promising forecast for this weekend as of earlier this week, Ulrich hopes more bicyclists turn out to help ride coordinators reach a goal of $10,000.

The 63-mile route, a loop following county roads round trip in the countryside between Conway and Loris, remains the most popular choice, he said.

One couple from Haverstraw, N.Y., north of the Big Apple, have taken part in a ride every year, Ulrich said, noting the various New Yorkers who like to pedal.

Ulrich also saluted Darren and Cyndi Smith, owners of Rivertown Bistro in Conway, for their dishes at the ride’s home base.

“They have been with us from the get-go,” Ulrich said. “He gets up and makes shrimp and grits.”

A crew from Grand Strand Bicycles shops in Murrells Inlet and Myrtle Beach will provide support services for riders on the road.

Agency’s countywide reach

Also the director of human resources at Horry County Disabilities and Special Needs, Ulrich said since the not-for-profit agency’s founding 1983, its client base has grown to 900 families.

“The need grows every year,” he said, “with more people moving to the area.”

The agency not only can help after diagnosis of a disability in a child before his or her birth – “technology’s a wonderful thing,” Ulrich said – but with lifelong services for clients who cope with intellectual and related disabilities, head and spinal cord injuries, and autism.

He said, sometimes, for clients who have no loved ones, “we are their family,” and that the agency assists with access to medical programs and supplies, a need that lasts long beyond school-age years.

Ulrich is among a 157-member staff that collectively operates 10 group homes, 10 supervised living apartments, two community home-care sites, and two adult day programs. He said eight case managers coordinate service for families countywide, and that across Horry County, despite what might be viewed as a small population, “many individuals” rely on the agency’s help.

Bracing himself for putting in many hours on ride day with little sleep, Ulrich, a San Antonio native, said this event affords cyclists a scenic look through the historic center of Horry County and its open roads in surrounding rural areas.

“I live in downtown Conway,” he said, “so I get to enjoy all that as well.”

Kelli Barker, a member of Horry County Disabilities and Special Needs’ board of directors, said the city “rolls out the red carpet for us.”

Happy to volunteer on the ride’s sidelines year after year, Barker said the camaraderie among the cyclists, just like the marathon runners, always impresses her with that “passion for physical fitness” and accomplishment, “and the same common mission” they share.

Barker said every participant in this ride, “a wonderful event,” wins in helping the agency’s base of families served.

“Everybody’s there with one goal in mind,” she said. “That’s to raise as much money as we can.”

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