Faribault Bethlehem Academy (BA) sent 12 bicyclists on the first leg of a 200 plus mile bike ride today in the 8th annual SMART Challenge Ride.  1992 Bethlehem Academy graduate Joe Burgess started the event in 2012 has a way to give back to the school he loved.

The Smart Challenge Ride is a three day bike ride with people pledging to support the riders by donating to the school for scholarships for students to attend the Catholic grade 6-12 school.  Traditionally participants spend the first two evenings in a state park along the way.  Due to COVID-19 safety concerns bicyclists will come back to Faribault each day.

Kris Sauer, Director of Enrollment and Admissions was joined by BA Art Teacher Jason Hillesheim on a recent KDHL AM Minnesota program to talk more about the charity ride.

Hillesheim has planned the route since the first year and explained this year he planned one day while other riders planned the route for the other two days.

Ten of the 12 riders are participating in all three days.  Two other people will journey one day.

Sauer says the fundraiser has been very successful with over $350,000 raised for students attending Bethlehem Academy.

The forecast for this year's ride has been perfect.  Some years have been very hot and stormy weather has been experienced also.  The first day riders jumped on Highway 3 to go to Farmington and back (64 miles).  They are accompanied by a vehicle with extra equipment if needed and the vehicle helps bring attention to the riders for other vehicles traveling on the road.

Day two is a ride west to Mankato on the Saktah State Trail (85 miles) and the final day riders will pedal to Kenyon and Owatonna back to Faribault (65 miles) by back roads.

Each rider has a pledge page here and are taking pledges through the end of August.

The twelve riders are:  Cory and Sara Caron, David DeGrood, George Farmer, Jason Hillesheim, Anna and Joey Blessing, Father Brandon Theisen, Kris Brazil, Bob Crone, Dr. JT Smith, and Loren Tatge.

A Mass was held Thursday morning before the bicyclists embarked on their journey.

Bethlehem Academy Smart Ride 2020 Participants. Photo Provided by BA