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Dream big or go home, so they say. Way back in 1996, an interest in helping disadvantaged and at-risk youth led a small group of bicycle enthusiasts from RAGBRAI®, Bike World and the Riverfront YMCA in Des Moines to create a plan on how these youngsters could participate in RAGBRAI®. They wanted young adults, who otherwise would not have the opportunity, to experience the sense of camaraderie, accomplishment and goal setting that participation in RAGBRAI® brings. The organization obtained gear, then recruited and trained youth to participate as the first Dream Team in RAGBRAI XXV in 1997. Since that year, between 20-30 youth participants have successfully completed RAGBRAI® each year and gained memories for a lifetime.
Recruiting new team members starts in the fall every year. The youth participants are called upon by the Des Moines school system. Programs such as SUCCESS and Gear-Up, counselors, after school programs, church groups, and through the court advocate system make a great connection for these young people to join the Dream Team. Participants range in age from 13 to 18, and the number of youth participating each year is dependent on the number of adult mentors and funds available.
Training starts in mid-February with 6 weeks of indoor training 2 nights a week. In early April, the outdoor training starts. Indoor training stops and the team rides outside 2 nights a week plus a ride on Saturday. Once a month in May, June and July, the Dream Team participates in overnight campouts to help prepare for tent camping on their RAGBRAI® Experience.
All the equipment needed to get started in cycling and participate in the training and RAGBRAI® is provided at no cost to the participants or their family. After hearing wind of this incredible organization, Primal was touched by the idea and extended a helping hand to the cause. Primal has been involved with supporting the Dream Team and the Ragbrai Experience Program by donating custom jerseys to make the positive memories last forever.
At the end of RAGBRAI®, those who have successfully completed the ride take home all the equipment they used during training along with the memories of the experience. These young people now have the ability and the equipment to maintain a healthy lifestyle as well as the ability to set and obtain long range goals.
The program culminates with a week-long camping and bike riding adventure across the state of Iowa. The youth have a chance to meet hundreds of people and visit dozens of towns; these interactions would likely not have been possible without the Dream Team.
Touching stories of overcoming challenges and accomplishing milestones from the Dream Team are plentiful. One is the story of DeAndre Parson and his love of cycling. After graduating high school and pulling double shifts at a basketball game concession stand, he bought himself a road bike for his 6th RAGBRAI® trek across Iowa. The 18-year-old was at the mark of his final year riding with the Dream Team, but the adventure won’t stop there for him. He plans to become a mentor for the team in hopes to encourage and inspire other young riders to keeping pushing toward their dreams.
The new friendships and life lessons will benefit these teenagers for a lifetime and the experience is what they can look forward to. The Dream Team does truly make dreams come true.
For more information or to get more involved in this amazing charity, please visit the Dream Team’s website here: http://dreamteamdesmoines.org/