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Bikers raise $50K for stroke fund

March 14, 2018

The cheers could be heard from South Cache Street.

The cyclists were tucked inside a Dancers’ Workshop studio, spinning to the beats of the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s and collectively shaking green pom-poms.

At the front of the room spun Julie Guttormson, the brainchild behind the “Rock the Ride” fundraiser that had over 120 people cycling to nowhere Sunday.

Guttormson, adorned in white glasses, tapping drumsticks to the beat, yelled encouragement to the crowd that was there to raise money for stroke and cardiac patients. As the four-hour event neared its close at 1 p.m., St. John’s Hospital Foundation — the organization that oversees the fund — announced the collection had hit the $50,000 mark, more than doubling the haul from the year before.

“It gives me chills,” Guttormson said.

It also brought tears to her eyes. The success of the fundraiser is a personal win for Guttormson, who started the event three years ago. She suffered a stroke herself over a decade ago at the age of 31.

“From when I had my stroke,” she said, “the main thing that I walked away with is every time I would share my story, I would learn how many people went through something similar. But, also, everyone’s experience was completely different.

“So many young, vibrant people have these events, and what happens after is you can’t work and you can’t function. It’s an amazing thing to help people — and help them locally.”

As interest exploded Rock the Ride moved from Revolution Indoor Cycling, Guttormson’s business in the MovieWorks Plaza, to the Center for the Arts.

In its first year teams filled 20 bikes and raised about $16,000. This year 19 bikes were reserved within the first 48 hours registration was open, said John Goettler, president of the St. John’s Hospital Foundation. The donation total as of press time was $51,712.

The fundraiser has teams, usually of four riders, that share a stationary bike for four hours of constant pedaling. Teams can split the time in any way — as long as the pedals keep spinning. They raised sponsorship funds, and a raffle of donated items helped rake in the dough.

Costumes were big at the event. Nearly every rider wore a tutu or a wig or some form of headwear. The Bad Moms team, made up of Beverly Shore, Bronwyn Minton, Lisa Walker and Christine Swain, puff-painted team T-shirts for the event.

“We’re artists,” Minton said, “so we had to make our shirts.”

Shore was encouraged to join the energetic event, but found the fundraiser held new meaning after losing a friend to stroke in the past week.

“It turned into something deeper,” she said.

With more people wanting to partake, 15 bikes were trucked in from Thayne on loan from Wheelies Indoor Cycling. Wheelies owner Christy Carlson found herself in the saddle Sunday as well, alongside three teammates who joined her to support the cause.

The women dressed as unicorns in tutus for “magical power.”

“Who doesn’t love a unicorn?” Carlson asked.

Revolution instructor Samantha Glaes was off the bike but on her feet, helping shuttle team members and supporting the spin instructors who rode alongside Guttormson at the head of the room.

“I know this is very special to Julie, and I wanted to do something for the people who are in need in our community,” she said. “And who doesn’t want to come rock out on a Sunday morning?”

The “Stranger Things” team, dressed in T-shirts that referenced the Netflix show, decorated their bike with signs and a box of Eggos, a breakfast food loved by the show’s star character. Despite the themed execution, Katie Long said it was more thrown together than it appeared.

“I put [the name] in as a placeholder, and then it stuck,” she said. “But they all ride bikes, right?”

Stranger Things teammate Hannah Steele, who cheered on Jean Abrams as she pedaled, said the event was “the dance party that everybody’s looking for.”

For Steele, a nurse at St. John’s Medical Center, the cause hit close to home.

“A lot of the patients I care for will benefit from this fund,” she said.

Rock the Ride donations can still be made at StJohnsHospitalFoundation.org.