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This charity comes full cycle

Some teachers will go that extra mile for their students.

And there are some who are willing to go more than just a mile, about 99 miles more.

On bicycles.

The first 100-mile bicycle ride in the county is being held Nov. 18 to raise money for the Hernando County chapter of United Way.

Students will be asked to sponsor a rider by pledging one penny for every mile ridden. If each student pledges $1, about $15,000 could be raised.

Thus far, a handful of teachers have agreed to participate, and more are expected to join, said Joe Clifford, a guidance counselor at Moton Elementary School and organizer of the event.

Clifford, an avid bicyclist who rides about 150 miles per week, said the event will raise money and teach children the importance of helping others.

"We need to encourage children to become involved in supporting organizations like United Way," he said. "We have to teach children that it's very important to help their fellow man, and to learn the intrinsic value of helping each other; it's a wonderful feeling."

Children should be taught to be kind, gentle human beings at an early age, Clifford said.

"Maybe children would get away from judging each other," he said.

The course, which is still in the final planning stages, will include stops at most of the schools in the county. Riders will stop, greet the children and grab a quick drink and snack, then continue to their next destination.

A support van, supplied by Register Chevrolet in Brooksville, will accompany the riders to provide relief for those who cannot complete the course, Clifford said.

Clifford hopes to complete the 100 miles within seven hours. Some riders will take longer. But speed is not what's important, he said.

"We're not going out there to compete and show how fast we can ride, we're doing this as a way to get the kids involved, and to raise money."

Each year, school employees participate in the annual United Way campaign. Last year the district donated about $8,500 to the local chapter, said Marilyn Ceh, the United Way executive assistant in Hernando County.

"The schools have always given us support," Ceh said. "But we've never had an event like this. I think it's a great idea to get the children involved, its important for them to learn how to support their community."

United Way contributions in Hernando County benefit 19 non-profit organizations, like the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Hernando Association for Retarded Citizens, Hernando-Pasco Hospice and the Alzheimer's Association.

Last year, $181,000 was raised in Hernando County. So far, $64,000 has been raised during this year's campaign, Ceh said. She expects to exceed this year's goal of $190,000, she said.

Many of the organizations, such as Childhood Development Services, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Hernando Education for Adult Readers in Training adult literacy program, and Youth and Family Alternatives, support schoolchildren and their families, Clifford said.

The event will allow some of these families to give back to the agencies that have helped them, he said.

"This event can serve as a way to introduce kids to the types of agencies that help others," he said. "If they realize the number of people who are just getting by, who rely on help from these agencies, they will see how their contribution will help."

Clifford invites community members and businesses to participate in the ride. Sheriff's Office employees have expressed an interest in riding, he said.

"Hey, we encourage everyone and anyone to join us," he said. "We welcome their company and their support."

Donations can be made to any of the schools, Clifford said. Any donation, big or small, will be accepted.

"I'm willing to pedal for seven hours," he said. "I wonder how many are willing to give $1. It's for a good cause."

For information, call Clifford at 544-6450.

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