With thousands of miles and memories behind him, “Rider-in-Chief” David Baldwin reflects on Pursuit for those with disABILITIES.
After months of planning, the Pursuit ride for those with disABILITIES took you nearly 4,000 miles through all kinds of weather and terrain. What was going through your mind as the Atlantic Ocean came into view?
Ever since the ride began in Oregon, I dreamed about seeing (or reaching) the Atlantic Ocean. I started that day with Maire, some of my very best friends (Doug Hodo, Jon Prather, and Kenny Baldwin) and our core Pursuit riding crew. As we got close to Rehoboth Beach, I was shocked to see previous ride along participants, Dave Thompson and Eric Nordstrom, pop out on bikes to join us the last 10 miles. As a police escort showed up to lead us down the final stretch, my emotions and the weight of our accomplishments began to swell. Once we arrived at the beach, we were again surprised by a large crowd cheering us on and holding up Pursuit banners, signs, and balloons. At that point, the dam broke, and tears of joy flowed down my face as I dipped my front tire into the ocean while 100+ of our friends watched. It was a magnificent and wow moment that I will cherish always.
What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of your journey? The most rewarding?
The most challenging aspect was keeping up with everything: the pace of riding, the learning visits, the excitement when friends joined, and all of the guests along the route. The most rewarding was having so many friends (old and new) working with us to reach our goals, and seeing our amazing country at ground level, and meeting so many locals along the way.
Over the course of the ride, the Pursuit team had the opportunity to visit and share ideas with more than 30 organizations serving those with disabilities across the country. What are some of your biggest takeaways from these learning visits?
The biggest takeaway was realizing that most of these organizations face many of the same challenges and obstacles as The Center. We heard many common themes, including the need for greater employment opportunities that increase inclusion, ways to manage and tailor services to the various age groups within the populations we serve, and how to attract and maintain the best employees. The learning visits also provided great opportunities to learn and share best practices and we came away with some great ideas in regards to community-based living and job possibilities.
Looking back on the Pursuit journey, is there anything you would change or do differently?
I wouldn’t change a thing about the Pursuit journey. We learned a lot, raised a significant of money for The Center, raised awareness for persons with disabilities, and had the time of our lives with friends while doing so.
How will the money raised by the Pursuit campaign be used to improve the lives of the clients at The Center?
The Pursuit campaign funds will be used to complete the purchase of the 6.72 acres on West Dallas where we have resided since 1966. The ownership of and control over this highly desirable property will provide access to an estimated $30+MM of land equity value. Securing the land and accessing its value is at the heart of the transformation of The Center. The remaining funds will provide financial stability and flexibility allowing us to implement smart growth decisions as determined by the Boards’ Long-Term Planning Committee and expert consultants.
How do you think Pursuit has contributed to the bigger conversation about those with disabilities in our society?
I do believe Pursuit has contributed to the bigger conversation. We had amazing support all along the journey, both locally as well as back home, but also nationally. Pursuit was featured in a Washington Post article, on the CBS Morning Show, and on a billboard in Times Square, along with numerous local print and TV coverage throughout the country. The Center’s base of support grew by thousands during the ride. Our mission to raise awareness and increase support took flight in a way I don’t think I ever fully envisioned. And supporters didn’t just donate money…they also connected with our clients and have put in time as volunteers and I believe will continue to do so in the future. And because of the connections we made during our learning visits, I know we directly started a bigger conversation amongst our new friends and collaborators that I think will continue to grow, and hopefully, lead to great changes and happenings.
Any big plans for Pursuit in the future?
Pursuit “1.0” was a huge success. Pursuit “2.0” is in the works, but as of now, all we know is it will continue to focus on The Center locally, but also with the hope of also helping all people with disabilities nationally.
Any final words of wisdom?
If you have a dream, chase it. Better yet, if that dream has the chance to change lives for the better and you have the means and will to bring it to light, then do it. I know it sounds cliché, but it rings true. I had a handful of excuses I used for a while as to why a campaign like this may not work or how it may not be the right time, and it was a leap of faith to be certain, but one obviously worth taking. I could not have accomplished Pursuit’s goals without my teams at The Center and SCF Partners or my family and friends. This journey further cemented and grew so many friendships and I was constantly amazed and overwhelmed by the inspiration, dedication, and talent I encountered. I think my final, final words would be to show up and put in the effort, because the majority of the time, you’ll be blown away by the result. It was the ride of my life. Thanks for letting me share it.