Presentation will focus on bike safety for children and stories from the cyclist’s journey
PITTSFIELD – Riding his bike across the United States to raise funds for The Rotary Foundation, Keith Harris has inspired generosity.
A woman he met in a Cooke City, Mont., general store donated $100 after a brief conversation, and after he spoke to a school group about water quality in developing countries, the children collected $100 for the foundation’s water filtration programs.
“It’s really exciting for me when casual encounters along my ride lead people to get involved with Rotary,” said Harris, 50, of Merrimac, who began his 4,400-mile trek in Seattle on June 9 and will complete it in his hometown by summer’s end. “That adds so much more significance to what I am doing.”
Rotary International’s foundation supports a wide range of international humanitarian, educational and cultural exchange programs. Harris, a longtime member of the Ipswich Rotary Club, has used his ride to so far raise over $30,000 for the Foundation.
He will arrive in Pittsfield on Saturday, Aug. 9, and on Sunday, Aug. 10, at 10 a.m., he will lead a talk for children on bicycle safety in the gymnasium at the Pittsfield Family YMCA, 292 North St. He will also share stories of the road. The talk is free and open to the public. No pre-registration is required.
Besides raising awareness about Rotary, Harris is also riding in gratitude for his own health. In a 2007 adult softball game, he injured himself sliding into second base. What at first seemed like a simple abrasion became life-threatening when a resulting staph infection spread and shut his organs down. Harris underwent emergency open-heart surgery and wondered if he would survive.
“Part of the reason for the ride relates to my near-death experience. When I came out of that, I felt like I couldn't just go back to life as normal. . . I have a heightened sense of purpose now.”
Reflecting on his trek so far, Harris said one of the most striking experiences was pedaling 70 miles up and over Beartooth Highway, an 11,000-foot pass that runs from northwest Wyoming to southwest Montana and into Yellowstone National Park.
“I knew from training for the trip that physically it was going to be the most challenging day. And it was, but it was also an incredibly beautiful experience,” Harris said. “It was 35 miles up and 35 miles down, with 30-foot snow banks at the top.”
Harris joined the Ipswich Rotary Club 18 years ago at his accountant’s suggestion. Harris and his wife, Christina, had just opened a printing and graphic design company in town, and they saw Rotary as a networking opportunity.
“I didn’t know the first thing about Rotary,” he said. “I quickly discovered that it’s about service and fellowship. Christina and I enjoy belonging to an organization that’s trying to make a difference in so many ways.”
Established in 1905, Rotary International is a global service organization that brings together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian services locally and worldwide; it has a major focus on the eradication of polio.
District 7890, which will sponsor a variety of presentations by Harris as he passes through the region, has 2,300 members in 60 clubs in Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut.
To learn more about Harris’s fundraising ride, visit his Pedaling for a Purpose website at http://pedalingforapurpose.com/.
To follow his journey on Facebook, visit https://www.facebook.com/pedalingforapurpose.
Images courtesty of facebook.com/pedalingforapurpose