I love riding my bike. I learned to ride as a child as most of us do and then didn’t ride for many years as I grew into a young adult, married, had children and just got too busy.
Fast forward 20 years or so and I was looking for some type of exercise to tone my legs. In our basement I discovered an old Bianchi stationary bike left behind by the previous owner and I brought it upstairs and started riding it. The challenge of how many miles I could go bit me and I ended up buying a hybrid bicycle to get me outside and on the roads.
I was 46 years old.
After my and husband I moved to the Verde Valley in 2007, I started riding with a great group of folks every Friday. With their encouragement I started doing longer and longer rides until I rode from North Scottsdale to Picacho Peak in one day. What a hard but rewarding challenge that was. I have since gone on to start my own guided road bike tour company, Self Propelled Tours Sedona and now a nonprofit as well.
During the winter of 2016/2017, I was sick and feeling low so I started thinking about what I could do for someone else and the idea for what is now a 501c3 charitable organization was born.
Chain Reaction was started to provide low-cost, reliable transportation, i.e. bicycles, to our Verde Valley friends and neighbors who have no other means of transportation.
It may surprise you to know that in the Verde Valley over 2000 residents have no vehicle. I realized that if a person has a bicycle they can ride it gives them a way to get to job interviews and then a job and they will be able to improve their life in a big way. I started by asking my FaceBook friends for unwanted, fixable bikes and the response I got was amazing.
I’ve been working with a couple of local bike shops, the Verde Valley Bicycle Co. in Old Town as well as Absolute Bikes in the Village of Oak Creek. They have been wonderful in repairing the bikes at as low a cost as possible and also providing helmets to be given with each bicycle donated.
The Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition saw my vision and partnered with me providing funds I needed to get the bikes repaired. I have raised enough money to pay for my incorporation as a nonprofit, obtain my tax-exempt status and become a AZ Qualifying Charitable Organization. This means that you can give to Chain Reaction every year to receive a tax credit and lower your state taxes.
To date I have donated bicycles to Angie’s House, the Sedona Area Homeless Alliance, the Old Town Mission and Catholic Charities. I have given away over 40 bicycles and helmets now and am looking for donations of bicycle locks as well.
I am a firm believer that cycling can become a life-long passion. Not only is it great for your body it is great for our planet. I always say that my bike is my physician and therapist! A good bike ride certainly puts a smile on my face.
So ride on my friends and let’s make our community a safe and happy place to ride our bikes.
Heather Parris is the executive director of Chain Reaction.