The Dirty Donut Race


Woman walking with headphones

Money, I’m Home! Listen in this week as Consumers’ own, Chief Operating Officer Scott Sylvester, fills us in on an exciting community event – The Dirty Donut Bike Race. Learn how you can get involved, whether you’re riding your bike, volunteering or eating donuts!





00:06 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money I’m Home. From finance to fitness. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union and I’ll tell you what, we’ve got a great podcast for you today because it has a lot of heart involved. We’re talking today with Scott Sylvester, our chief operating officer with Consumers Credit Union… Hey, welcome in, Scott.


00:24 Scott Sylvester: Hi Lynne, how’s it going?


00:26 LJJ: Awesome. Great to have you here on this beautiful day here in Pure Michigan. Hey listen, we have some fun coming up. And it’s a brand new event, but it’s not a new cause. And we’re talking about Make-A-Wish and Tour de Taylor and Scott, let’s start off with what exactly is Tour de Taylor and why it’s so important.


00:51 SS: Sure Lynne. Well, we’re fortunate here at Consumers Credit Union that we all rally behind our employees and what we’re passionate about and we have some just great charities here. For me, Make-A-Wish is near and dear to my heart because of a family friend that had a daughter that passed away in 2007 from cardiac arrest. She had had heart problems, really, since birth but in that last year when she was 14, she passed away in May, she was to be granted a wish by Make-A-Wish of Michigan that fall to swim with the dolphins, it’s something she always wanted to do and unfortunately, she was not able to actually participate in that wish, so I gravitated to the cause to help my friend and see what we could do to help others, grant wishes. And it came through bike riding, of all things, which I was not really an avid bike rider, but I certainly became one. I had to become one in order to participate and help raise money for Make-A-Wish. They’ve had races that they’ve been doing now for 30 years in Michigan and have raised millions and millions of dollars for Make-A-Wish.


02:07 LJJ: You took this very seriously. When you say bike riding, let’s be clear, this is not just you’re getting on to a trail for a couple of miles.


02:17 SS: Yeah, so back in 2010, I signed up to do the event, it’s a 300-mile bike ride that starts in Traverse City and at the time would end at the Michigan International Speedway, down in the southern part of Michigan. So it was a 100 miles for three days straight, very difficult, lots of training, I’m certainly not one of those that is going to be the first one to finish [laughter] but was able to complete the rides every day, but it’s really more about just the fundraising for the kids. When you’re riding and you’re struggling, you would think about the kids and what they went through, so that would make it easier. We knew we were doing it for a good cause. And annually, Make-A-Wish raises about 2 million dollars for that bike ride.


03:06 LJJ: Wow. Wow. I know that I’ve talked to you the days of the bike race… Ride not race, but… And I know that I’ve talked to you and felt and listened to you and the bike teammates that you have about that focus when it’s tough, and about how when you come across that finish line what that really means because it’s very emotional.


03:36 SS: It’s very emotional. There are usually a lot of tears at the last day when you finish. A sense of accomplishment, pride, you see a lot of the kids there that are going to be granted wishes so it’s very moving, it’s very touching and you’re physically exhausted as well. So it’s quite a journey to do that over a long weekend. For us, it’s being part of Team Taylor as a memory of Taylor, who we lost back in 2007. Team Taylor has done that ride, we’ve done local rides here in the Kalamazoo greater area over the years and this year we’re going to support something different. It’s a ride that’s going to be in Martin at the Motor City Speedway. It’s called the Dirty Donut. So it’s primarily an off-pavement bike ride on gravel roads, and it’s just another way to support Make-A-Wish of Michigan and Team Taylor.


04:37 LJJ: Do you get donuts?


04:38 SS: We do. You get… [chuckle] So the Dirty Donut bike ride is something that’s been a new thing across the country. It’s become quite big in several other areas. You can ride and you can stop at the break stops and eat donuts, and for every donut that you eat it takes time off of your bike time. It’s a competitive race. But it’s competitive at all different levels. So it’s competitive for the bike riders that are just gonna go and they won’t even stop for a donut but it can also be a fun competition for those that want to try to eat as many donuts as they can and they might even end up with a negative time. [chuckle]


05:15 SS: So it’s just a fun way to get out there and have fun on a dirt road, which I can tell you, I think you’re seeing a little bit of a transition nationally, of people moving from road bikes to hybrid bikes, mountain bikes even fat tire bikes. And there’s a couple of reasons for that. It’s a lot of fun, number one, but safety is certainly a concern and there’s been some tragic bike accidents over the years on roads. So I do think there are a lot of people that are transitioning to the dirt road races as well.


05:49 LJJ: When you look at core charities that Consumers participates in, it’s very intentional. And the one thing that I have always found to be so enlightening and also heart-warming is that an individual is who drives it, you mentioned that at the beginning, that the employees need to feel a piece of that and as well as really own it, and be the leaders for it. We just finished Purple 5k, we’re doing the MS Bike and Walk and Bike, and focus, but it’s led by our team here internally. What does that mean to you?


06:31 SS: Yeah, everybody seems to have a passion around different charities, and I really love them all, and I have been personally touched or influence by pretty much all of them and have participated in all of them at one time or another, but it is neat to see how different folks react to different things. And we’ve had a variety of volunteers that have helped with the Make-A-Wish events, and the events we’ve done locally and the event we’ll do today. But yeah, I think it means a lot for the team to come together and spend… It’s not just about giving money, it’s about giving time and when our team comes together like that outside the office for a great cause, great people, you make great friendships out of that as well.


07:13 LJJ: So when you look at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and you think about your own personal history with Make-A-Wish, I’m sure that throughout the years of consumer supporting you have learned of others who have had wishes granted, it must be really… You have to smile when you’re done with that one particular year, and you’re starting again to plan the next event.


07:43 SS: Yeah sure over the years we’ve had the opportunity to ride for children or young adults that are about to be granted a wish. So that we could really feel a connection of the money that we raised was actually helping them achieve their goal of getting a wish granted. But the event also has a lot of volunteers who were Wish Kids that have survived. Which is so exciting to see them come back and are so grateful for everybody that does what they do to help raise money to grant wishes. And some of these folks are young adults in their 20s but some of them are even older than that that had wishes granted 20 years ago. So, very cool to see that.


08:28 LJJ: When you are focusing on your work, do you just step back sometimes because Scott, we’ve talked to you before, and we’ve learned about your history with Consumers and you’ve been here for years. And now that I have the great pleasure of really watching how we are good servants of the monies that we donate to the community through our Consumers’ funds and all of the partnerships that we do. Do you think to yourself, my goodness, when we first started, would we be able to give as much as we do? It’s really jaw-dropping because it’s not just about as you said, money, it’s about time and the relationships that build because of that.


09:20 SS: Yeah, we’re a bigger organization, we have more people, they’re passionate about a lot of things. My life has changed. I have three children in my life now. I think I look at life differently now that I have three children versus when I didn’t. So I tend to, when I volunteer time or try to raise money, for me personally it tends to be around kids. So I’m just so very thankful that I have three healthy children, and that that’s not the case for so many people that have struggled with maybe even trying to have children, but if you do have a child and then something traumatic happens with a disease or an accident, boy you just can’t take life for granted. So I’m very proud to be able to help raise money for a lot of organizations that involve kids.


10:10 LJJ: I want to question you on training a little bit. Now, I know that there are years that you might not do the 300 miles.


10:18 SS: Right.


10:19 LJJ: But seriously, how do you train for 300 miles if you’re not a regular cyclist? It’s hard to wrap your arms around.


10:28 SS: Well, it’s a lot. I’m not a runner. But I think for those people that are, and there are a lot more runners probably out there that can understand this. So you can get training plans to run a marathon or a half marathon, and you really have to come up with a training plan or find somebody to can help hold you accountable. So that’s the first thing I did is I got an accountability buddy, and it happened to be an individual, Scott Dobson, that works for us. And we held each other accountable to ride a lot of miles in those early days back in 2010.


11:01 LJJ: So when you started and you talk about safety, and the safety of bikers when you started, was it surprising to you how automobile drivers react to bicyclists on the road? Did you think, “Oh I just understand this.” Or was it really…


11:22 SS: It was eye-opening. I never knew that there’s a lot of close calls, I have a lot of friends that have been hit by cars. It’s a lot like motorcyclists are very concerned about their presence on the road. I think distracted drivers can tend to not see a bicycle or maybe a motorcycle as easily as they would another car. So, that’s where accidents can happen, and you’re pretty exposed out there even with… I would highly recommend that you always wear a helmet bike riding. I always cringe now when I see people out riding on the road, even if it’s just a joy ride without a helmet. So wear your helmets folks and find the right places to ride. Whether it’s back country roads or roads that have bike lanes, those type of things I think are important as well?


12:14 LJJ: You did mention there’s so many now parks that have bike trails in the parks that people seem to really…


12:21 SS: And those are more geared towards the off-road mount… Their paths with dirt bikes or fat tire bikes have become very, very popular, so they’ve been around forever. But I do think that the popularity of that off-road biking is becoming more popular today than it was 20 years ago.


12:38 LJJ: I do find it funny that we are sponsoring this Dirty Donut Race, where you get to eat donuts and bike race and one of the favorite things to do in the Wyoming, Grandville, Grand Rapids area, is get on the bike trail that leads to ice cream in Byron Center. [laughter] It’s just an automatic…


12:57 SS: It’s like having that carrot in front of you right? And who doesn’t like donuts? And there are different levels to this race. So if you are competitive, or if you’re an endurance bike rider, you can do 60 miles, that’s a lot on a mountain bike or hybrid bike, but there’s a mid-level race at 40, and then there’s a beginning one at 18 miles. So…


13:17 LJJ: What are you doing this time?


13:19 SS: I’m probably gonna do the 18.


13:21 LJJ: Wait a minute, you’re going from 300 to 18.


13:23 SS: It’s a different type of bike. The bigger the tire, the more friction on the road so you can’t go as fast.


13:31 LJJ: Are you trying to figure out how many donuts, like are you calculating?


13:32 SS: Yes, maybe I’m going to try and eat as many donuts as I can. I’ll probably get sick along the way. [laughter]


13:41 LJJ: Right. That’s so much fun. This is a family affair for you. You mentioned Scott, which is an awesome partner, but truly all families start to come and participate.


13:55 SS: Yep, so with the Make-A-Wish ride they had a 50 mile ride race that my wife and both of my two boys have participated in, and I’ve had the opportunity to ride with them at times, and some of the local rides that we’ve done. I’m hoping that my boys will join me for this ride as well. So yeah, they’re athletic and they’re involved in a lot of activities at school, so they have no problem doing it without training. I will need to train a little. [laughter]


14:22 LJJ: Well, thank you so much for your dedication and your time. Not only to Make-A-Wish, Tour De Taylor but also to everybody here to bring us the awareness of being able to help and participate. And I’m assuming you can bike, but you can also volunteer?


14:38 SS: Yup, I’m sure that The Dirty Donut would accept any volunteers because they’re going to be a lot of different stops and the registration area.


14:47 LJJ: I’ll tell you what you need to get on your bike or volunteer. It’s the dirtydonutrace.com head over there to find out all about it. But it’s Sunday, June 9, and there is a race for everyone. Hi everybody, I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson, thanks so much. Money I’m Home. Thank you, Scott.


15:02 SS: Your’re welcome.


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