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Banahan, Mayes Head to Iowa for RAGBRAI

June 05, 2013


Two St. Louis Community College staff members will be heading to Iowa in July to participate in the Des Moines Register’s 41st Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) from Council Bluffs to Fort Madison July 21-27.

St. Louis Community College-Forest Park Police Chief Richard Banahan will be riding for the first time while Karen Mayes, STLCC's district director of nursing, will be hitting the road for the fourth time. They will join about 10,000 other riders -- including dedicated cyclists, celebrities, politicians, world travelers -- as they pedal through farmlands and small towns. Upon completion, participants traditionally dip their bike tires in the Mississippi River.

RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world. It is a ride, not a race, and the route changes every year, with eight towns designated as the overnight hosts/hospitality centers. Starting on the western border, the 472-mile ride concludes on the eastern border, near the Mississippi River.

Banahan Biking for BackStoppers

Richard Banahan  
Richard Banahan

Banahan, a retired St. Louis Metropolitan Police Sergeant, will be pedaling for a cause. He is teaming with Lt. Norm Campbell of the St. Louis County Police Department and William R. Etheridge, director of corporate security at Maritz, to raise funds in support of The BackStoppers.

Their Team BackStoppers will participate in this challenging ride to serve as an outreach and support their organization by being ambassadors on bikes. In addition to being a visible presence, they hope to support the organization financially – and specifically, the educational fund.

The BackStoppers was started in 1959 to provide needed support and financial assistance to the spouses and children of local police officers, firefighters, publicly-funded paramedics and EMTS and volunteer fire protection units who have lost their lives performing their duty. They also provide assistance to the counties served by Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop C, Illinois State Police District 11, and Cape Girardeau County in Missouri.

The Educational Fund is to ensure that their children will have access to financial resources to pursue elementary, secondary or postsecondary educational opportunities. They currently support 68 families with 57 dependent children in 18 counties in Eastern Missouri and Southwestern Illinois. Over the past decade, they have added an average of three children per year.

They provide nearly $1.4 million in survivor benefits each year to these families for education, housing, health care and other expenses, including nearly $225,000 for education costs, Banahan said.

Team BackStoppers is seeking support from individuals and businesses for this mission. Donations can be made directly through the website, and it provides a record of someone's giving.

Becoming a Backstopper member is another great way to become involved.  Banahan said they ask for the phrase "Team BackStoppers" be placed in the comments section of online donations, so it can be tracked internally.

Mayes: "Something for Everyone"

Karen Mayes  
Karen Mayes dips her tire in the Mississippi River
after she completed RAGBRAI in 2012.

Mayes is participating in RAGBRAI along with her husband, Howard.

“My husband and I go on our own, realizing that some of the registration fee and other dollars spent along the way goes to many and varied charities,” she said.

They begin riding at 6 a.m. and are sound asleep by 9 p.m., she said, but everyone’s adventures are different.

“There is really nothing like it," she said. "People describe it as a 500-mile buffet. They also describe it as a cross between a county fair and Woodstock. There is something for absolutely everyone.”

In a book by John and Ann Karras, “RAGBRAI: Everyone Pronounces It Wrong,” they described much of it as wholesome.

“People helping people, people returning wallets, people letting people into their homes and forming lasting friendships, people enjoying Iowa, people being just plain good people,” John Karras wrote.