A little pain for a lot of gain

One of the more dubious honors I have gained as president of Catholic Charities is to humiliate myself annually by puffing and panting my way through 25 miles of a bicycle ride designed by philanthropist Don Rodman to benefit needy kids at the expense of interminable lactic acid burn. I speak, of course, of the Rodman Ride for Kids.

Ironically, for these past two years the annual fundraiser for charities that serve the Commonwealth’s vulnerable children has fallen on my birthday weekend; this year the Ride is Saturday, Sept. 27. It’s perfect, really -- a particularly effective way to remind me that I have aged another year.

I imagine the day will go something like this: I will be lining up at the start of the Ride with 1,200 other riders -- many of whom have chosen to ride not 25 miles, but 50 or 100 -- as I mount a pumpkin-orange, all-purpose Huffy equivalent. I will smile a little sheepishly at Riche Zamour, director of our Haitian Multi-Service Center, who is, um, not in his 30s, and will be flying his way through 50 miles in about the time it will take me to complete 25.

But that’s nothing. The real twinge will come about 12 miles in, as I’m trying to convince myself that my legs haven’t lost more than 50 percent of their will to live, while Sister Maryadele Robinson of our Laboure Center laughs and chats merrily along. Sure, I’ve been weightlifting and doing aerobics, but that’s nothing compared to the spinning classes she’s been known to do in preparation for the Ride. (No, I’m not kidding.)

I will finish the whole thing off by bargaining with God on a malicious little hill at the 24th or 25th mile while trustee Jeff Kaneb and his teenage son glide by, and Kevin Butler, another trustee, patiently pedals beside me, musing aloud about the mini-triathlon that he’ll be competing in the next morning. Why am I the only one whose chicken has lost its spring?

Needless to say, I don’t see the Ride as my greatest athletic hour. I do see it as a great moment for Catholic Charities, though, and for the Boston-area community. The Ride is in its 18th year, and has raised $31 million during that time for needy kids. This year, five Charities teams will join teams representing 24 other area nonprofit organizations to puff, pedal and enjoy themselves through a course that begins and ends in Foxborough, and is a true celebration of the entire group’s commitment to children -- from Don Rodman himself, to the organizations the Ride supports, to the last rider to cross the finish line. (No, it will not be me.)

Of course, I’d be remiss not to tell you how to put a little wind at the backs of the Catholic Charities riders by giving. The link is www.ccab.org/annual-events/2008-rodman-ride, or you can call Annie Schreiber here at Charities, at 617-451-7967. Look for posters and rider information in your parish bulletin soon, too. And it’s not too late for you to ride on behalf of kids who have less and deserve so much more. Just choose a Catholic Charities team from the site and join. I promise it’s not as bad as I make it sound. Actually, it’s pretty fun. And if you’re lagging a little behind on the course that day, just look for me.

Tiziana C. Dearing is President of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Boston.