Four years ago, Annette Erny founded nonprofit Reel Housewives of Topsail Island with aspirations to raise money to support those battling breast cancer.
To do this, she elected to ride the length of Topsail Island on a bicycle. Erny was joined on her inaugural journey by 42 other riders, and the team raised $8,000 used to pay for rent, food and Christmas gifts for struggling families.
On April 5, Erny once again took to the roads for the annual cause, only this time she was flanked by more than 300 other riders on basketed beach cruisers and other bikes.
“This is by far the best year we’ve had yet,” Erny said. “Our community was really involved with this event. People also came in from other places to ride with us, like Raleigh, Florida and Virginia. A lot of people have this ride on their bucket list, but didn’t want to do it alone.”
The group raised $25,000 Saturday from registration fees and donations.
Erny said that as they rode along the island, whole neighborhoods of people stood on their porches and cheered the long line of passing bikers.
“It was such a humbling experience,” Erny said. “I heard many riders say they will never miss the opportunity to do this event again.”
Initially, there were some concerns about the forecast 50-percent chance of storms on Saturday. Some of the bicyclists gathered Friday night at Gilligans, a tavern in Surf City, to have a prayer asking God to bless their event with sunshine. At a balmy 74 degrees and clear skies, the group was able to complete the 26-mile journey in four hours Saturday without any hitches. Eight businesses along the island even gave fruit and water to riders en route.
Following the ride, many participants parked their bikes and visited Gilligans for lunch and live entertainment by Fryd on the Boat. A silent auction also was held that featured 98 items and 22 gift certificates donated from local businesses, sponsors and volunteers.
“We have a community here that is incredible and takes care of each other,” Erny said. “I really feel as if God put me here to help grow this cause.”
Next year, Erny hopes to have an even larger group of about 500 people who will raise even more money to help breast cancer victims. The ride will continue to be held on the first weekend of April.