Welcome to OOFD Winter
The Sun Harvest ride has ended. The leaves are throwing up their final vibrant flourishes and falling to the ground. It is a nice time for all of us at OOFD to take a breath, soak in the memories of all the year’s adventures, and relax a bit. Celebrate a bit. And start the major planning for what promises to be an amazing 2024. We are ahead of schedule and got our ride dates set so you can get them on your calendar. And . . . and. . .
we were awarded our biggest grant ever, like by a long shot, $50,000 for our Adaptive Program by Laureus. Read more about all this excitement below as well as catch up a little on what we’ve been doing (lots of bike camping) and what events we have coming up (including a book club) not to mention how and why you can give to our Giving Tuesday Campaign. So much momentum in the right direction right now!
OOFD wins Laureus Grant for $50,000
Coming out of an awesome bike camping trip for youth with adaptive needs in September, our partner on that event, KEEN Chicago, told us about a grant we might be a good candidate for from Laureus Sport for Good. It felt so over our head. The smallest possible amount was $50,000. We have never received a grant for more than $12,000 (and that was major)! We needed all sorts of special federal government verifications and numbers. It was a slog and felt like such a long shot. But with the incredible vision of our board member Bradley Fisher and help from Laura at KEEN and even the folks at Laureus, we got the application in and won it!
The majority of the grant will go towards buying 4 brand new, top of the line Hase Pino recumbent tandems - the premier bike for folks with disabilities. These bikes range from $8,000 to $14,000 a piece! And we get to buy them through a local, Chicago bike shop, Cosmic Bikes in Jefferson Park! The rest of the funds will go towards us making some awesome things happen with our Adaptive Program in 2024!
Giving Tuesday Campaign
So yes, momentum. We got it. Looking ahead to our ninth season of leading bike adventures to immerse and educate in local history and nature. And all the while, growing the organization, systems, and structure of OOFD with a hyper focus on making us a sustainable org that will be around for many years to come. And as we do that, we are learning to fundraise. The main lesson from the classes a few of us have taken on the subject is simply this - to ask.
We haven’t asked for donations much outside of the annual Hootenanny. But here we are. Giving it a go. Asking you to donate $5, $20, $100, shoot even $250 to our org. We only accept donations if you believe in adventure and that getting folks out into nature on a bike is a good thing. So if you do believe in this and want to see us to continue this most excellent mission, PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING HERE.
Volunteer Spotlight: Lauren Fihe
In the spirit of one of our values, gratitude, it is nice to give our volunteers a shout out. We say all the time that we could sit here for hours and write gushing letters of gratitude to the volunteers that make up OOFD. They are the ones that make this place as great as it is, and do so much to push the org to the next level.
This month, we wanted to take the chance to highlight and shower praise on Lauren Fihe who's 3 year board term just ended this month. Lauren was a crucial perspective on our board and served as our Vice President for two years. She has always brought a thoughtfulness and ability to make things happen including leading the epic Hootenanny in 2023, not to mention guiding bunches of rides, and the myriad of things she did to make the board as effective as it has been. She is going to be missed on the board, but we know she plans to stay involved and even is leading next month’s book club! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you Lauren for everything you have brought to and given to OOFD!
2024 Rides - Save the Dates
Yes! You are seeing that correctly. Those are the dates for 2024! Usually these don’t get finalized and posted until February or March! We have been working hard and ahead of schedule to get these all ready and out so you can mark your calendars. Major props to our President and Adult Program Director, Breanna, for really leading the charge on this, and the board in general, especially the Programming Committee, for getting these finalized so early. There are the old classics and some new rides, some even kinda daresay experimental rides. St. Paddy's Day Parade? I wonder what that will look like. Shabonna DIY? What the heck is that?! Train O' Lakes? That sounds fun, Mark those calendars as ride registration will be opening sooner than ever too, December 1, for most of the rides!
Ride and Event Recaps
The 7th Annual Sun Harvest ride rocked! It sold out with 50 participants and 7 guides leading the way making it the biggest Sun Harvest we have ever had! This crew rode up the shores of Lake Michigan and camped at Illinois Beach State Park and returned the next day through the stunning fall colors along the Des Plaines River Trail. This ride is an opportunity to show some gratitude to our guides who led 2 or more overnights this year with a free slot on the ride, and we had 10 OOFD folks do just that. Big props to all the guides, a few guiding for the first time with OOFD, and extra big props to Kat for being the lead guide for this huge event
The OOFD board of directors returned from our 6th annual board retreat. This is a Friday night through Sunday afternoon event where the board gathers, this year in a rented house in Miller Beach, IN, and has big discussions, reflecting on how the past year went, and what major things we want to focus on in the coming year. We welcomed three new board members, Ashley Lyons, Matt Weiss, and Joe Clark to the board and our President, Breanna Bertacchi, led us through some big discussions as we discussed everything from deep diving our values, budget review and planning, gratitude sessions, and so much more. We were even lucky to have a representative from the Chicago Park District join us for a session as we discussed how we can strengthen our relationship with them in 2024.
And of course there were plenty of just quality hangs, conversations, beers around the bonfire, and strolls along the shore of Lake Michigan. After finishing year 3 of our 5 year plan (2021-2025), we have stayed on track to accomplish our main goal which is making the org more sustainable by bringing on a full-time Executive Director by the end of the 5 years. And at this retreat, we officially voted to take the next step towards that goal by increasing Glenn’s time and salary as Executive Director from 20-28 hours a week including covering some of his health insurance and providing some paid time off. Again. Major momentum!
Where the Wild Thing Grow Ride to Bob Mann Woods
We partnered with The Shedd Aquarium to help them with some habitat restoration that they are leading at Bob Mann Woods in LaGrange, IL. This was another sold out ride with 15 registered riders and 3 guides leading the crew 14 miles from Bikes N’ Roses out to the service and back. Major shoutout to Maura Benson who organized the ride from top to bottom for her first time as the Assistant Director of the WTWTG Program!
We wrapped up a wild year of Monthly Hangs with one at Horner Park and the last one of the year at Monk’s Pub. This year has been so awesome for the hangs with 30-40 folks out each month! We will restart them in January. Remember, all are welcome from OG OOFD volunteers to folks that just heard about OOFD and want to meet us and learn a bit more about what we are about.
Interesting Content and Good Vibes
We continue to crank out very interesting content. Our lead guide from Ride to Valhalla, Maggie, wrote this beautiful recap of that ride, and Kat who led the crew on Sun Harvest wrote this almost poetic recap of this year’s ride to IL Beach State Park. We also made a minor addition to our Mission Statement by adding “and beyond” to the end of it. So now ‘We aim to deepen your reverence for the region by exploring local trails while learning about the culture, history, and habitats native to the beautiful Lake Michigan area and beyond.” Learn a bit more about what that means and why we added it here.
Finally, we put together a blog called Beginners Welcome: Bike Camping Basics which aims to break down any doubts or barriers folks might have when thinking about bike camping. It is a great, brief summary and kinda a one stop shop of much of our “how-to” bike camping blogs over the years.
Finally, folks have beeb so kind in their post ride surveys, and we got to share some of those good vibes here. This comes from a rider on this year’s Sun Harvest ride:
This was my first ride with OOFD (and my first time bike camping too!) and it was just an amazing experience all around. A massive thank you to the volunteers who were so kind, gracious, and helpful. The ride was just the right amount of challenging, the route had some beautiful stretches in the woods, and the time at camp was so fun and chill. The chili and cornbread (vegan too!) was delicious!! The group was so diverse and interesting and everyone was so friendly. It was a great mix of structure (route, campsites, food, skill sharing) and freeform (the overall vibe is very chill and welcoming.) It was clearly well thought out. I made some friends that I'm definitely going to hang out with again soon. It was just such a positive experience overall. I can't wait to ride with you all again.
Decemberg - Adult Bike Camping/Cabining at Camp Reinberg: December 8-9 (Sold Out)
The winter tradition continues this year with one of our biggest Decembergs to date. We'll have a crew of 30 bike adventurers exploring the beautiful Northwestern forest preserves including the first Forest Preserve in the nation, Deer Grove, over this weekend ride, as we ride to stay in cabins (some will camp just cuz) at the awesome Camp Reinberg in Palatine, IL.
Volunteer Appreciation Party: Thursday, December 7 from 7-1030pm
Each year we throw a party with food and drinks to celebrate our volunteers and provide some end of the year gratitude. The RSVP form with additional deets was shared in the last Volunteer Newsletter. Reply to this email if you have any questions. If you are interested in getting on our volunteer newsletter, and even getting an invite to this volunteer appreciation party, new volunteers are welcome, just fill out our Volunteer Form here.
Tabling at Patagonia Fulton Market: Saturday, December 2 from 11am-2pm
Come do some holiday shopping and stop by to say hey to Ashley L and Ryan who will be holding down an OOFD table at the store, spreading hype for next season!
Book Club, Death and Life of The Great Lakes: Wednesday, December 13 from 7-8pm
Join us in person or virtually for another great discussion about this incredible book by Dan Egan about on of our most cherished ecosystems. In person will be at the home of an OOFD volunteer in Ukrainian Village and welcome to meet in person at 6:30. Discussion and virtual link will open at 7pm RSVP here, and we’ll get you the in person and virtual info.
Letter from the President
As our season comes to a close, stories of new friendships, new lessons learned, and new inspirations taken from both peers and organizational partners all abound in our narrative for the year. Discoveries of new flora and fauna [bobcats?], introductions to new campgrounds and routes and an ongoing enthusiasm for education are tangible in each of our events, and it all exemplifies our love of adventure and the enthusiasm our community shares.
We rode through trails both new and old - returning lovingly to destinations that we ramble towards yearly while also navigating through corridors unfamiliar with new turns and new communities. Each of our Programs this season has its own contributions that support the advancement of our Vision; and worth spotlighting is the continuation of our Youth Program after a Covid19 related hiatus. As such also the piloting of our ‘Day Ride’ events saw its actualization. Our Adaptive Program continues to serve children with disabilities, and we further enmeshed this inclusive cohort into our other Programs. In light of these new initiatives, OOFD consistently remained committed to our Mission - all rides led to increased hyper-local context rooted in ecological, geographical and cultural awareness.
In response to the turning of the autumn equinox, all in nature begins a shifting inward during our fall and winter seasons; cicadas have returned to burrow deep, both perennials and their pollinators alike retreat to their most core networks to harbor from the frosts. As in nature, so in OOFD as our work in the coming months is tuned towards introspection to focus on assessment and refinement in support of our growth. Programming for our 9th season is already underway, and we are slated to have an even more adventurous year [can you imagine?]. We are only able to look forward to the full realm of possibility in 2024 due to the absolute reinforcement of our Mission that we witnessed in every event we hosted this season. And now we await the opportunity to re-emerge next spring, along with the cycles of our local ecosystems, to continue adventuring and appreciating our region with our neighbors.
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"To immerse , educate, preserve & advance the history, culture, trails and native habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area"