In the years that I’ve worked for Celanese, I have enjoyed various volunteer events with my colleagues from the Amsterdam office. We have upgraded facilities at a petting zoo, pruned trees and bushes in a national park, and participated in events that combined fundraising with a physical challenge.
I noticed that the volunteer/physical challenge combination energized me, so I decided to do more than just participate. I began considering the idea of organizing an event for our Amsterdam office. How exactly I stumbled upon the Dutch Homeride project (www.homeride.nl) has slipped my mind, but the idea of participating with a team was exciting to me.
My personal experience has been the most important driver in building a team for the Homeride. As a father of four kids, three of whom have been in the hospital for several weeks, I know how important the Ronald McDonald (www.rmhc.org) Houses are. I’ll never forget the days we had to leave our eldest son with the babysitter when his sister was hospitalized; and how peritonitis kept our youngest son in an Italian hospital 100 km away from our vacation address. Without a Ronald McDonald House facility, we were forced to take turns sleeping alongside my son’s bed with three other kids in a room and commute back and forth every day.
This drove me to accept the challenge and start the journey toward the Homeride. I pitched the idea to a small group of Celanese colleagues and was amazed by the enthusiasm it created. Within a couple of days, the core of the team was put together. Meetings were planned, bicycle trainings started, and logistics and technical support was arranged. While we were preparing ourselves, our energy somehow spread throughout Celanese. I received many e-mails from colleagues asking if they could participate as cyclist or in a different way. The vibes we generated were unbelievable and also supported us in the primary goal: raising funds to support overnight stays for families with a child in the hospital. As the houses of the Ronald McDonald Foundation are fully dependent on gifts, the Homeride is their most important fundraising event.
We organized a lottery and placed boxes in supermarkets to collect money from empty bottle returns. Two of our team members who play in a band organized a concert for colleagues from our site in Sulzbach, Germany and performed for an enthusiastic crowd to raise funds. In addition, we reached out to family and friends and to the Celanese community for support – which was generously given by many. Thanks to The Celanese Foundation, we could receive donation matches, while our co-workers had the chance to support us by donating their Cause Cards for every volunteer hour logged to our cycling team. On June 21, at the start of the summer and two days before the ride, we announced that we had raised more than €22,350 for the Ronald McDonald Foundation.
The team, consisting of nine cyclists, four technicians, three support members and one photographer, gathered at noon on Saturday, June 23 to start our cycling tour: 500 kilometers (about 310 miles) in 24 hours, a route shaped like a heart and eight Ronald McDonald homes and hospitals along the road. We were not alone as we rode with 57 cycling teams and 24 running teams with support crews gathered on the Dom square in Utrecht, the Netherlands, at the foot of the big cathedral. More than 1,250 participants and 1,000 spectators cheering on all the teams were happy to hear that together we raised over One Million Euro!
The Celanese Charity Cyclists started at 2:00 p.m. conquering the six stages with different teams of cyclists. I cycled Stage 1 over 98 kilometers in broad daylight and sunshine. Stage 3 was 104 kilometers, while the sun was setting over the skyline of Rotterdam, and we rode into the night through Zeeland. The inner peace I experienced was amazing as we cycled together with some other teams and just the moon and our lights guiding us through the night. It certainly reminded me of some of the nights I spent beside the hospital beds of my children.
How happy I was after arriving at the end of Stage 3 at the checkpoint at 2:30 a.m. having that free Big Mac waiting for me as fellow team members cycled off for the second night stage. After two more stops, I mounted my bike once more for Stage 6, finishing 282 kilometers in 24 hours with a heartwarming reception at the cathedral square on Sunday afternoon.
We all had big smiles on our faces when we gathered at noon on Saturday – and we still smile today as we cherish the memories of an unforgettable ride. And we wouldn’t be “Celanesians” if we hadn’t already asked ourselves, “What about next year?” It fills me with gratitude that we were able to accomplish this goal. On behalf of the athletes and families, I want to say THANK YOU.
Rindert van Zinderen Bakker
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