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Cumberland cyclists partner with Ride for Reading program

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Ride for Reading Executive Director Matthew Portell, left, and CU cycling coach Tim Hall.

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Cumberland University cycling team recently formed a volunteer partnership program with Ride for Reading, an organization who aims to improve literacy for low income children.

The 501 c (3) non-profit organization was formed in Nashville in early 2008, and in two years has already distributed more than 15,000 books to needy children in the Metro Nashville area. Cumberland cycling will become the Wilson County chapter for Ride for Reading and target Lebanon, Watertown and Mt. Juliet area schools.

“We are ecstatic to have the Cumberland University cycling team on board,” said the Executive Director of Ride for Reading Mathew Portell. “Giving a child a book is giving them the opportunity to go anywhere, see anything and experience everything and the cycling team will help provide the means to those journeys.

“It inspires me as an educator to see university students getting involved in their community,” Portell said. “These experiences will not only change the outlook of their lives as students, but will also prepare them for future professional experiences.”

Various drop-off points for the donation of books will be announced shortly, and team members will be available to pick up those donations through the book drive campaign. All types of books are accepted regardless of the wear and tear, subject matter or age appropriateness. The cycling team's first distribution event is planned to take place in mid-April, and the squad’s goal is to take in several hundred books prior to that date.

“Every cyclist on the team will volunteer time to acquire book donations, cultivate relationships with local businesses and educators, as well as coordinate regular book distribution events each semester,” said CU head cycling coach Tim Hall.

Ride for Reading made a unique connection by not only addressing literacy concerns, but also by adding a bicycle safety element to their presentation. On the day of distribution the cycling team will make a delivery on their bicycles with books in backpacks, and just like a Tour de France race, the kids will be outside to cheer the cyclists as they arrive on school grounds. Each child taking part in the distribution will get an opportunity to choose their own book to read and keep.

“Carrying books on our bikes and being greeted by kids as we arrive, we are looking forward to that moment,” Hall said. "This is a natural fit for us and the community; to promote literacy for children in need while also addressing bicycling safety.”

If your business or organization would like to become a book donation drop-off point, or if you have books you would like to donate, contact Hall at thall@cumberland.edu or call 547-1207. To learn more about Ride for Reading, visit www.rideforreading.org.

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