NUMB officially surpasses the $1 million mark


The Rev. Bill Ritter takes part in the Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger (NUMB) with his sons Brett and Blake. Here, they ride past a lake north of Lakeside, Nebraska. Submitted photo

NUMB XXIV returned to Chadron, Nebraska, the site where the first NUMB Ride in 1996 took place, and it was on this route that the ride surpassed the $1 million mark.

NUMB — the Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger — is directed by the Rev. Bill Ritter, the Blue River and Elkhorn Valley District Superintendent who retired at the 2019 Annual Conference.

“Back in 1996, I had 36 riders who started a 500-plus-mile ride from Chadron to Elkhorn for the first NUMB” Ritter said. “NUMB 24 had over 140 folks take off from Chadron for our stops in Crawford, Alliance and Rushville.” 

The first NUMB brought in less than $10,000 for the hunger projects NUMB supports. Regina Bergman, of Elkhorn, serves as NUMB director of administrative services. She announced that NUMB XXIV is approaching $60,000, which brings the total that NUMB has raised over the years for hunger to $1,034,000. 

The theme for the 2019 NUMB was “Thanks a Million” since this was the NUMB that surpassed the $1 million mark given to the Nebraska Food Banks, Heifer International, Society of St. Andrew and Africa University Agriculture training program. 

The United Methodist churches of Chadron, Crawford, Alliance and Rushville hosted the riders and staff and were assisted by the congregations of Whitney and Harrison. The host communities provided areas for camping, showers and restrooms and breakfast and dinner. NUMB Route Director Greg Bakewell of Omaha reported that NUMB has now stayed in 101 different communities and have been hosted by 98 United Methodist churches while riding through all 93 counties of Nebraska. 

Bakewell made sure riders noted the numerous historical signs of northwest Nebraska. By doing so, riders learned the history of the buffalo soldiers of Fort Robinson, the potash boom town of Antioch and the story of Chief Dull Knife and many more points of interest along the route. 
Riders noted with awe the beauty of this area of the state and the minor miracle of the wind shifting to our backs for three days in a row on this circle route.

Each evening Social Director Nina Clark, of Omaha featured the various talents of our riders who came from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.  More than half of the NUMB riders are older than 60, with the oldest rider being 77. Sixty-six women and 77 men started the ride this year. People from many different denominations and faiths took part in the NUMB ride, including many who would be considered to be “unchurched.” 
All were people brought together by the idea of making a difference in this world in the area of hunger.

“The ride was very special this year,” Ritter said. “The weather was beautiful, the hosts were wonderful, and the scenery was breath taking. It was great to break the $1 million mark.  When I started this ride back in 1996, I could not even dream that one day we would raise this amount of money.”

Ministry During the Ride

There are no bike shops in Rushville, Nebraska. That is why I noticed the young teenager carrying his disabled bike, wearing a black hoodie tied tightly around his face in the 80-degree weather the afternoon NUMB was in town. 

There is no bike shop in Rushville, except for today, because the NUMB Ride is in town, and the NUMB Bike Shop is, too. I stopped the young man and asked what happened to his bike. I have seen bikes run over by cars that were in better shape. I told him to take his bike down to the semi with the NUMB logo on the side parked by the middle-high school, and I would attempt to get his bike going again.  A little later he showed up to the semi, and I put his bike on the repair stand and started to do my best to resurrect it. 

While the young man was watching me work on his bike with the NUMB bike tools and spare parts, he started feeling faint. The NUMB medical crew jumped into action. The nurses checked him over quickly and determined his core temperature was way too high. They stripped off the black hoodie and started cooling him down with ice.  He wore the hoodie all the time because of some people who made fun of his traditional Ogallala Sioux hair braid. 

While tending to this young man, the nurses discovered that he works nights in the local nursing home, and because school was out for the summer, he had not had anything to eat for more than a day.  The NUMB nurses made him some peanut butter sandwiches from the food donated by Columbus First United Methodist Church intended for our riders at our riders’ stops. 

This young man ate the sandwiches and Oreo cookies. He soon perked up after he cooled down and got some food in him.  I addressed the bent derailleur, missing brakes, broken shift cables, broken rear shock and bent frame and wheel the best I could, and his bike was ready to ride again.  Some of the riders put together a care package of food for him to share with his dad and brother when he got home. 

We watched as he rode off on his repaired bike with several bags of food, and we realized that the NUMB Ride was meant to deal with hunger whether it be in big or very little ways.

This story and NUMB ride anecdote were submitted by the Rev. Bill Ritter.

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