The Rev. Charlie Barnard, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Tellico Village, successfully finished a 442-mile charity bicycle ride on the Natchez Trace.
Barnard named the fundraising effort “Cycling Natchez Trace for Our PLACE,” and traveled north from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville. The effort collected $41,550, which will go toward outfitting Our PLACE’s new kitchen.
Our PLACE is a respite center that will offer activities for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and provide relief to caregivers.
“Our PLACE is near and dear to our hearts,” Barnard said. “Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease and it affects our community, especially the Tellico Village community.”
Loudon, Monroe and Roane counties will all be served by Our PLACE, and the new facility will allow growth in operations and who is reached. Barnard is hoping money raised in this year’s efforts will fund items like cabinets and appliances.
Not only did Barnard have the support of corporate sponsors Chick-fil-A in Lenoir City, Matlock Tire Service & Auto Repair and his church, but individual FBC members sponsored the ride by donating 25 cents to $1 per mile.
“My church, they were cheering me on, and not only that but a lot of my financial support comes from the church. And there were some people in the community that were supporting us as well,” he said.
Barnard finished the ride in six days, averaging 72 miles per day. He rode 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., sometimes in a heat index of up to 108 degrees. Barnard said he drank 400 ounces of Gatorade and 260 ounces of water.
“It was really hot, especially the first few days in Mississippi,” he said.
The Natchez Trace sees less traffic and a lower speed limit along the route and fades from flat road to hills moving toward Nashville. Barnard’s wife drove 8-10 miles ahead and carried a spare tire and gear to lighten the load.
“She was what you call a SAG (support and gear) vehicle,” Barnard said. “She was my support person so I didn’t have to carry but one or two bottles with me.”
His efforts and support from Loudon and Monroe counties helped make the fundraising effort especially successful.
“Charlie has been an unbelievable supporter of Our PLACE and a need for an Alzheimer’s dementia day center in our community since the beginning,” Jim Dezzutti, Our PLACE president, said. “I’m just amazed at what he and his congregation have been able to accomplish in support of our mission.”