This will be the sixth year for Ride 4 Orphans, which has raised more than $260,000. Cyclists can pedal 62, 30 or 4 miles through South County. The ride begins and ends at Spanish River Church in Boca Raton. Photo provided
By Janis Fontaine
On a medical mission trip in 2009, Craig Kindell and his friend Eric Johnson traveled to 10 orphanages in southern Haiti run by El Shaddai Ministries International. They spent about a half day treating patients at each location, finishing in Les Cayes as darkness fell.
When the sun goes down in many parts of Haiti, no lights come on.
They entered a room so dark, Kindell thought it was empty. When his eyes adjusted, he realized children lined the walls, quietly eating their evening meal.
“That picture stuck with me,” said Kindell, who made the trip on behalf of Spanish River Church, where he has been a member for 40 years. “I wished I could help them.”
Kindell didn’t know how to get power to the kids, but sometimes it is who you know. His brother in Cincinnati told him about Fairfield, Ohio-based SonLight Power, an organization that designs and builds solar energy-run schools, medical clinics, orphanages, community centers and churches, and water-pumping stations in remote locations around the world.
Kindell, a retired IBM software developer with a degree in electrical engineering, contacted SonLight, which trained him to build a solar-run facility. In 2012, with SonLight’s support, Kindell brought solar lighting to the orphanage in Las Cayes.
The results were both immediate and far-reaching. Kids who had never heard of a nightlight slept better knowing they could chase away the monsters by flipping a switch. A girl who longed to go to school but who couldn’t pass the entrance exams finally passed once she could study after dark.
Some of Spanish River Church’s missions are supported by a popular annual 5K race called the River Run, held every December. But Kindell’s friend Johnson had another idea to raise money for the solar power projects.
Johnson liked biking and he saw a lot of other people riding on beautiful, hedge- and tree-lined A1A who liked it. How about a bike ride fundraiser, not a race, but a fun ride? Johnson suggested.
The first Ride 4 Orphans in 2013 drew 250 riders, thanks to an unexpected sponsorship from zMotion, a bicycle club with more than 1,000 members in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. This year’s ride, Feb. 17, is expected to draw 550 riders.
Since its first year, nearly 2,700 riders have participated in Ride 4 Orphans, and the money raised exceeds $260,000. One hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to organizations that work with orphans and foster children locally and globally.
Since the charity ride started — and thanks to the community’s support — the money has paid for buildings and projects Kindell never dreamed possible. Ride 4 Orphans has brought solar energy to three orphanages, including the expansion of a solar power system at Lundi Children’s Village outside of Jeremie, Haiti.
At Pothawira Village in Malawi, a sub-Saharan country devastated by AIDS and poverty, Ride 4 Orphans brought solar power to the community’s church, school, clinic and birthing center.
Ride 4 Orphans provided solar power to 120 orphans at Village Altonodji in Chad, at the school, local clinic, chapel and library that serve the surrounding community. They even have internet access.
One of the current projects closest to Kindell’s heart is providing solar power to Sarampet, a rural village just outside of Hyderabad, in India.
Not all the orphans Kindell and Spanish River Church help live far away. Some live in South Florida.
“It may come as a surprise that there are modern-day orphans right here in our own community,” Kindell said,
A portion of the Ride 4 Orphans money will benefit local abused, neglected and abandoned children through the Place of Hope and 4KIDS of South Florida.
Place of Hope provides a safe, loving and stable environment for desperate children and their families. Ride 4 Orphans has helped with renovations to buildings on its Boca Raton campus.
4KIDS of South Florida works to help foster kids and kids in crisis in six Florida counties. Over the past 20 years, 4KIDS has helped nearly 20,000 children and families.
Kindell says SonLight Power is providing vocational training for Haitians so they can help build the new solar energy buildings and maintain existing ones. Kindell says the local laborers are much better at working under the difficult conditions. He’s impressed both by their skill and diligence without a Home Depot anywhere in sight.
Kindell has always felt support from his faith and his church. He says it’s hard to not be overwhelmed by the need. No matter how much the church does, more needs to be done.
The official numbers on children living in poverty are staggering. But faith is sustaining, and you have to look at the small picture, Kindell said.
“You have to focus on how you are helping these kids one kid at a time.”
Janis Fontaine writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
What: Ride 4 Orphans 2018
Where: It starts and finishes at Spanish River Church, 2400 Yamato Road, Boca Raton.
When: 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Feb. 17
Details: Sheriff’s deputies will escort riders at the front and at key intersections along the 30- and 62-mile routes. Food will be served beforehand; a post-ride luncheon will feature live entertainment, free massages, raffles and a silent auction to benefit orphans.
Three ride options:
• 62 miles through Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Boca Raton. There are five rest stops with mechanics and food and drink available.
• 30 miles staying in Boca Raton and Delray Beach; two rest stops.
• 4-mile Family Fun Ride escorted by Boca Raton police ($15 registration fee)
Registration: $45 until Feb. 16; $50 on ride day
Info: 994-5000, ext. 241, or www.ride4orphans.com