First, congratuations to MORC and Cottage Grove Bike Park for winning the Bell Built Grant for the Central Region, getting more votes than we did by a slim margin. Our clubs and projects are similar in scope and we enjoy the same brand of Midwestern community support, volunteerism, and organization. We’re glad to see the grant go to a project so like our own, with the same kind of passion and appeal.
But, we didn’t lose. Not by a long shot.
We got large amounts of exposure to the park. Many people in our own backyard didn’t even know a place like Andres Bike Park existed until they got an email, text, or a post shared by a friend, a parent, or a neighbor. We got messages from parents excited to take their kids to the park for their first bike ride and from seasoned riders who can’t wait to come out and shovel some dirt and shred at the park for the first time. Our fanbase has easily quadrupled in size over a mere two weeks. We couldn’t do this without the support of the people who voted, spread the word about the vote, and beat the Andres Bike Park drum relentlessly over the last two weeks.
We were able to tell the story about a park, which just a year ago, was nothing more than a dumping ground and haven for illicit activity, a scar on the face of a working class neighborhood in the suburbs of Chicago, not worthy of its namesake, that of Keith Andres: a fallen Army Specialist who lost his life in Vietnam. That same park, just a year later, is now a safe place for families to gather and participate in a sport at a specialized park that is unique within hundreds of miles and is trying hard to live up to its namesake.
Our eyes were opened to and we were humbled by the amount of support poured out by the community. The Boys and Girls Club in Carpentersville and the local school kids spread the word and helped out tremendously.
Bike shops and other local businesses made it a point to stop every customer, for just a moment, and direct them to a waiting laptop where they could place their vote for Andres Bike Park. Local bars and restaurants put up signs and welcomed us, even at their busiest while the Blackhawks were playing the Wild, to hand out flyers and set up shop to get as many votes as possible. For the first time, in a long time, we were met with only support, and no resistance, to what we were trying to accomplish.
Also, not enough could be said about our volunteers and members. These guys and gals put in MILES on foot and on bike to physically hand out flyers and talk to every household within miles of the park, and many even further away in the city of Chicago and other suburbs. The coordination of effort from a marketing, communications, social, and grassroots push is unprecedented in the history of CAMBr as an organization, and the community of bikers, and non-bikers alike, responded in a way we didn’t expect.
This experience and this new found energy will fuel the development of Andres Bike Park for years to come. The grant money would have gotten us to our goal faster, but with the support of our community, friends, and family, we will finish this park and make sure it continues to be an asset for a long time to come.
It’s hard to think that with all we accomplished, we lost. WE DIDN’T LOSE, and we have YOU to thank. We’ve only just begun to win.
Thank you for your continued support.
- Chicago Area Mountain Bikers