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Bike rally kicks off Bruce Drysdale fundraiser

Jay Egolf helps a new bike rider. Jay Egolf helps a new bike rider.

Bruce Drysdale Elementary School kids clicked off a quarter mile at a time, a fraction of the mountains-to-sea ride that a local bicyclist rider will make on their behalf. The kids were getting in shape for their part of the fundraiser, which has a goal of $30,000 to buy additional computer accessories and playground equipment at Bruce Drysdale.

An event Saturday to fix bikes and let kids ride around the track at Hendersonville High School was part of the effort to support A.J. Ball, a 65-year-old retired Army colonel who is among 1,500 riders on the annual Mountains-to-Coast ride from Brevard to Carolina Beach.
"This bike rally is kind of the kickoff," said Angie Reid, the school's PTO president. "Our kids are going to be riding their bikes over the break or walking to support A.J. So we're getting their bikes in shape for the opportunity for riding."
Mike Robin, of the Bicycle Company at 770 N. Church St., was volunteering. "Mostly making sure they're safe," he said of his work on the bikes. "Putting air in the tires, tightening up the chains."
Sponsored by Cycle North Carolina, an organization that promotes healthy lifestyles and fitness and tries to boost rural communities, the annual Mountains-to-Coast ride starts Sunday, Sept. 30, in Brevard. By midmorning, the huge pack of riders will arrive in Jackson Park for a break after the first 20 miles of the day. They'll come down Fifth and then cut over to Fourth to ride into the park, Ball said. From Hendersonville they will bike down U.S. 64 East to Lake Lure.
"Every year we stop at a park or a school or a YMCA and camp overnight and then pick up the next morning and ride another (leg), average about 65 miles a day," said Ball, who is general manager of the Oletta Falls and Pinnacle Falls developments in Henderson County. "They'll be about 1,500 riders, from all over the United States. In fact, we'll have some from Europe, we'll have some from Australia , we've had people from New Zealand. Lots of folks get involved in this bike ride."
On the local riding team with Ball are Charlie Smith, Jay Tucker and Brad Rogers.
A veteran of four cross-state rides, Ball has raised money in the past for the Believe in Tomorrow House at Pinnacle Falls, which serves critically ill children of military families.
"This year, as I've gotten more involved with Bruce Drysdale, I wanted to focus my effort on Bruce Drysdale and the positive things that go on there," Ball said. He and his wife, Theresa, have cousins who attend the school and their son, Nick, volunteers there. "The environment there is great. I think the staff and teachers do a wonderful job, and I just want to support Bruce Drysdale.
"They have a tough time, they have a struggle because the kids are 90 percent minority, (the school has) a lot of single parent families, a lot of people that struggle just to live economically, so the kids get little support for school. The school gets a bad rap because test scores may be a little bit low. But if you go there, it's a great place. This lady, Christine Smith, the principal, she does a wonderful job."
Last spring's test scores actually showed a big leap in academic performance at Bruce Drysdale. The school jumped eight points in its overall scores and achieved a 27 percent increase in reading by Latino students.
"We just want to contribute to that positive aspect," Ball said. "We're going to need the community help to do that. The kids are asking for pledges and that kind of thing, people can donate a penny a mile, a nickel a mile and whatever they can afford but we need to get businesses and local people who are able to to support the ride and really help us to do that."
On the track, Jay Egolf, who has two children, Beck and Jace, at the school, was helping a younger boy learn to ride a bike. Some bike riders were racking up the mileage already. Daniel Reid, a fourth grader and the son of Angie and Ronnie Reid, had ridden 55 laps, just over 10 miles.
For more information about the fundraiser call the school at 828-697-5568.