More than 150 Participate in Optimist Club’s 31st Annual Historic Bike Ride

By Lisa Broadt / lbroadt@chronline.com

518f1be6abe3c.image (1)More than 150 people on Saturday participated in the Centralia-Chehalis Optimist Club’s 31st Annual Historic Bike Ride.

All riders began and ended their trips at Stan Hedwall Park in Chehalis; in between, they could elect 20, 40, 60 or 80 mile loops. Every route, however, included multiple historic sites, including: St. Francis Mission, Evaline School, the Jackson Prairie courthouse and the Claquato Church.

“Each ride offers you leisure time to view the many sights and sounds of rural roads in beautiful Lewis County,” the Optimists said on their website. “You will see herds of cows, perhaps a few llamas, and an ostrich or two. You will also have views of our three volcanoes, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, and, the most majestic of all, Mount Rainier.”

Attendees took off between 7 and 9 a.m. and returned between 2 and 5 p.m.

Among those participating were serious cyclists — some preparing for a summer of races — and more casual ones, just out to support a good cause. Also along for the ride: seven members of Boy Scout Troop 9519, lead by Troop Leader John Matagi.

Mazie Schlickeiser, secretary and treasurer of the Optimist Club, said that, for many, the race has become a tradition.

“It’s always the Saturday before Mother’s Day. At one point we thought, well maybe we ought to change it,” Schlickeiser said. “But people have this on their calendars. They know it’s always the second Saturday in May.”

“It’s kind of becoming a tradition for guys to get together,” she said. “The wives are doing their things, going to dinners or parties or teas, so for the guys, it’s a time for them to get out and do their own thing.”

In past years, the fundraiser — the Optimist Club’s largest — has raised more than $5,000. Historically, that money has been awarded to outstanding eighth graders as a college-fund seed.

This year, however, the Optimists hope to use the money to start an endowment fund, guaranteeing the scholarship program will continue for many years.

Five years ago, Monique Connors’ daughter Katie was nominated as one of the Optimist Club’s students of the month, putting her in the running for a scholarship.

Katie did not win, but Connors was so impressed with the the club’s work that she joined up — and has been involved ever since.

“I liked the ideals,” she said on Saturday. “I love everything it stands for.”

Currently the Optimists’ president, Connors said she and the other club members are dedicated to working with youth in order to extract and cultivate their inner strength.

“We see all the bad that’s going on right now,” she said, “and if you don’t keep feeding the good, only the bad will shine out.”

Though the Historic Bike Ride has been going on since 1982, the Optimists took over the event — previously managed by the county — in 1996.

The Centralia-Chehalis chapter of the Optimist Club was established in 1992. A service organization, the Optimists are committed to helping youth and giving back to the community.

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