Reform Ride for Refugees: The Backstory

by | Jul 11, 2018 | Event

In the summer of 2016, two friends who lived in Kitsap County (WA) were following the plight of Syrian refugees. They discussed how they could support their refugee neighbors.

As triathletes who biked frequently and Lutherans who were aware that 2017 marked the anniversary of the Reformation, one friend mused: “What do you think about organizing a bike ride for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation to support refugees?”

The genesis of the Reform Ride for Refugees was seeded.

Just as Martin Luther took a stand for religious reform 500 years ago, we’re asking people to take a stand to welcome refugees by participating in this ride.

Allison Pringle and Pastor Sigi Helgesen–the two friends–invited five Lutheran churches in Kitsap County to partner in making the ride a reality. Church leaders agreed that this should happen and a leadership team was formed. They would hold the first ride in August 2017.

Planning began in earnest and volunteers stepped forward from the five sponsoring churches: Silverdale Lutheran, Poulsbo First Lutheran, Vinland Lutheran, Bethany Lutheran and Our Savior’s Lutheran. The team agreed to donate all proceeds from the bike ride to Lutheran Community Services Northwest’s refugee resettlement efforts in the Puget Sound and to Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center.

“This was before the presidential election, before the refugee ban, before DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was in jeopardy,” said Pringle. “After those events occurred, the significance of our ride became even more timely and important.”

Just as Martin Luther took a stand for religious reform 500 years ago, we’re asking people to take a stand to welcome refugees by participating in this ride. Our refugee neighbors fled persecution and violence in their homelands and are reforming their lives in this new country, Pringle explained.

The butterfly might seem like an odd element in their logo but it is significant.

“Butterflies symbolize migration and transformation–our refugees,” Pringle noted. “It also represents the Butterfly Effect, which states that a small action locally can cause change elsewhere. We want our action of organizing this bike ride to effect larger change. It might be raising awareness and education about refugees, changing attitudes, bringing communities together, and engaging Lutherans.”

The Reform Ride for Refugees hit its mark. The inaugural event drew almost a hundred riders, engaged over 40 volunteers, attracted community support and raised $13,000 for refugee programs.

According to John Forseth, Refugee Reception and Placement Program Director in Tacoma, the program placed 598 refugees in the Puget Sound region last year. Each refugee receives a one-time grant of $1125 to help with resettlement expenses, which doesn’t cover the true cost of building a new life. Proceeds from the bike ride serve as an emergency fund to help refugees who need additional assistance to get them on their feet.

“We are grateful to our generous ecumenical partners in Kitsap County for their ministry and support in organizing Reform Ride for Refugees,” Forseth said. “We are helping refugees rebuild their lives in the Puget Sound with their assistance.”

The second Reform Ride for Refugees is coming up on August 11 and Pringle is again coordinating the event. Organizers hope to draw 200 riders this year and raise $20,000 for LCS Northwest’s refugee reception and placement services in the Puget Sound.

The ride start/ends in Silverdale, offers several route options, and features a post-ride celebration with a beer garden. Visit the Reform Ride web page for more details including registration.