Twenty-six years ago, the vision and mission of UrbanPromise was conceived in a church basement in East Camden.
A small group of college missionaries created a summer camp for neighborhood children, providing a safe, loving, fun and creative place for local youth to escape dangerous city streets.
The program has grown immensely since then but has still maintained the same core message that every child and teen is wonderfully created in the image of God.
This year’s 10th annual Pedal for Promise Bike Ride will be starting at Olson Middle School on May 9.
Beth Bahm and her husband John have been a part of the last eight Pedal for Promise events.
“Getting to know the kids is special. We spend weeks with them training them, and a couple come back year after year,” Beth said.
The Bahms became residents of Tabernacle about a decade ago after moving from Philadelphia.
Back then, the race originally started at Rowan University and ended at the Tuckerton Seaport Museum. Since then, it has grown quite a bit, and as a result of the larger numbers, they were forced to move it somewhere bigger.
The event was then moved to Tabernacle, beginning at Olson Middle School and looping through scenic Burlington County.
Pedal for Promise offers three mileage options for cyclists of all abilities and ages, from families to serious cyclists. Each option uses the same course.
“John and I have always been big cyclists, and we learned about Pedal for Promise through volunteering,” Beth said.
The kids from UrbanPromise attend the UrbanPromise Academy High School in Camden.
“They would get bikes rented for one day and they expressed their desire for more, so we were able to get 15 nice bikes for them and made a cycling team,” Beth said. “We have been coaching them now for four or five years.”
With contributions such as this, UrbanPromise has become extremely successful. On average, all high school students graduate and around 93 percent go on to college. Of UrbanPromise alumni, nearly 85 percent have graduated from an institution of higher education.
They also have expanded to numerous chapters. It is now located around the globe throughout North America, in Africa and Latin America. Each year, they reach some of the world’s most at-risk youth in five countries.
“The program has grown to be very effective. We often create relationships with these kids that lead to us going to their graduations and seeing them off to college. It’s fun to be part of their life,” Beth said.
Last year’s race contributed nearly $120,000, and they are looking to surpass that this year.
“The hardest part is getting the word out to everyone, but we were able to pull in about 400 riders last year and we’re looking to have close to 500 this year,” Beth said.
In previous years, riders have gathered at Johnson’s Farm in Medford, but this year, it was bumped back a bit on the schedule so the location was altered.
“We needed a large destination to accommodate a large group of people, so we asked the folks at Olson Middle School for permission to use their parking lot, and they were kind enough to allow it,” Beth said.
The actual ride offers stocked rest stops, EMT and SAG support, an event jersey — for those who have registered prior to April 27 — lunch at the finish line and exciting fundraising incentives.
There is anywhere from a 15-mile ride for beginners to a 65-mile ride for the more hardcore riders who apply.
It costs $50 to ride and riders are encouraged to fundraise. For those who are not able to ride, there is also the option to support a rider.
Visit www.urbanpromiseusa.org/pedal to signup today.