Annual Historic Riverton Criterium to benefit Palmyra’s Bread of Life Food Pantry

Riverton’s annual cycling criterium aims to shed a spotlight on local hunger.

Dale Neas, Director of the Bread of Life Food Pantry, stacks donations at the pantry’s location in Epworth United Methodist Church. He hopes the donation from the criterium will fill the pantry.

When Carlos Rogers created the Historic Riverton Criterium in 2011, his goal was twofold: to bring cycling to his new home and, in doing so, provide a donation to a local organization serving the community.

Initially, the non-profit criterium started out as a hyperlocal event for and about Riverton, but this year, Rogers is hoping to expand the races’ reach and get residents in the neighboring town of Palmyra involved on June 11. As such, he chose the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Palmyra as the beneficiary of this year’s proceeds.

The criterium will take place on Sunday, June 11 from 1 to 6 p.m. and consist of a series of USA Cycling sanctioned races. Qualified riders with a license from USA Cycling will race through the streets of Riverton on a 0.8 mile, six turn, flat course that starts and finishes at Christ Episcopal Church on 4th and Main streets in Riverton. The races are broken into categories based on age, sex and ability, with a maximum capacity of 75 riders in each field, Rogers said.

Of the available fields, Riverton’s criterium will have professional-amateur, amatuer men, amateur women and a kids’ race. Rogers expects 1,000 participants, spectators, residents and vendors at the event.

Having previously competed in professional racing, Rogers knew he wanted to stay involved in the racing community when he moved to Riverton in 2008, so in 2011, he proposed the idea of hosting a race to the town council, mostly as novelty for the town. He knew Riverton’s smooth roads leant themselves perfectly to a spectator-friendly course, and he thought a bike race through the center of town would get his new community involved in his passions for racing and community outreach.

Rogers said at the time, almost no one in Riverton knew what a criterium was, but now, residents stop him to ask if he will be doing the race again this year.

“It’s been positive feedback, and it keeps me going,” Rogers said. “I’m glad that’s been embraced and that people are starting to see what it’s about.”

Each year, Rogers donates to an organization making a positive impact locally. To date, the race has awarded more than $25,000 to local groups such as the Historical Society of Riverton, the Riverton Free Library and the Riverton Fire Company. This year, Rogers hopes to raise $5,000 for the Bread of Life Food Pantry, which serves Palmyra, Riverton and Cinnaminson.

Dale Neas, director of the Bread of Life Food Pantry, said he was thrilled when Rogers called him to inform him that he had chosen the food pantry as this year’s beneficiary.

“We always need funds as well food contributions,” Neas said. “This is a big thing for us; this is a large amount of money for us.”

Proceeds from the Historic Riverton Criterium will help fill the shelves of the Bread of Life Pantry. Spectators and racers alike are also asked to bring a donation for the pantry on June 11.

Everyone at the pantry plans to be actively involved in volunteering on race day, Neas said. The food pantry has been operating for eight years, but to have a spotlight on it through the criterium will make more locals aware of the pantry and the work it is doing, he said.

Rogers turns to local sponsors to help raise the money each year, and on the day of the criterium, the additional goal is to fill a truck with food donations for the pantry.

Ultimately, Rogers hopes highlighting the Bread of Life Food Pantry will encourage Riverton residents, who may not have known about the pantry, to volunteer and Palmyra residents, who may not have known about the criterium, to attend.

“If I can help out [the Bread of Life Food Pantry] through my event and be a marketing tool, that’s great,” Rogers said.

For more information on the criterium, visit http://rivertoncriterium.com.