A blaze of pink will sweep across Topsail Island on a mission to fight breast cancer.
The April 5 bicycle ride is the fourth annual hosted by The Reel Housewives of Topsail Island, a nonprofit organization which uses the money raised from the ride to help local breast cancer patients and survivors.
Annette Erny, founder of the Reel Housewives of Topsail Island, said the bike ride began four years ago when she announced to her friends that she was going to ride the entire length of Topsail Island.
“It was on my bucket list to ride the island and see the whole thing from end to end,” Erny said. She and her friends decided to postpone her ride and see if they could recruit people to do it with them and for a cause.
Though Erny said she has no personal affiliation with breast cancer, she believes God brought her to the ride and its support of people struggling with or in remission from breast cancer.
That first year, they had 42 participants, last year they had 202 riders, and this year they hope to have 300. Last year, Erny said they raised more than $10,000 total.
Registration for the ride costs $25, and includes participation in the ride, a t-shirt, and lunch after the event. Registration began earlier this month with four Topsail Island establishments hosting registration luncheons. Those luncheons gave people the opportunity to sign up for the ride and grab a t-shirt, donate to the cause, or buy Reel Housewives merchandise to support the event, and the first three alone brought in more than $10,000.
“The goal this year is to hit 15, and we are well on our way,” she said.
For those who missed the registration lunches, they can register for the ride the morning of the event, too.
Erny said this year they have 65 sponsors who donated $100 and two gold sponsors who gave $500 each.
Erny said the name for their non-profit group came to her through watching the reality TV shows Real Housewives.
“They’re always entrepreneurs ... always involved in charity events,” she said.
The Reel Housewives of Topsail Island t-shirt portrays women dressed up in heels while also holding fishing rods, which Erny said is a play on the TV shows and the pride the members have in the fishing towns on the island in which they live.
The ride starts at 9 a.m. April 5 at Serenity Point, the very southern tip of the island and ends at the north end.
“Everybody should arrive at 8:30 a.m.,” Erny said. Those who wish to register the morning of should definitely arrive early.
Following the ride, which Erny said usually takes three to four hours, Gilligan’s in Surf City will provide lunch and live entertainment to all the riders. They will also hold a silent auction. Erny said riders can catch a ride back to the southern end of the island, and volunteers will take riders’ bicycles to their cars after the ride as well.
All the proceeds from the ride benefit local people associated with breast cancer. Erny said they have helped neighbors with medical, house and electric bills, helped them pay for their children’s Christmas presents, and fund things such as the acquirement of aesthetics prostheses.
“We like to keep our money local,” Erny said. “Kind of a neighbors helping neighbors situation.”
Renee Clarke, a breast cancer survivor, was the first benefactor of The Reel Housewives of Topsail Island bike ride. She said she was first approached about the ride after her second round of chemotherapy, when Erny, who was a stranger, called and told her she would like to use the proceeds from the ride to help Clarke.
“She said she was calling around the neighborhood and the community, and they kept giving her my name,” Clarke said.
That first ride’s proceeds helped Clarke with medical bills.
“They helped with my out-of-pocket medical expenses, what my insurance didn’t cover,” she said. “It helped immensely.”
The ride, Clarke said, touched her deeply and gave her strength.
“It was overwhelming, they just all made me feel like they were behind me,” she said.
Today Clarke is in remission. After six rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and 6 weeks of radiation which led to other complications and a lattissimus-dorsi procedure to move back muscles to her front, doctors said she was in remission in December 2013. Now, Clarke attends the rides even if she isn’t well enough to ride. At last year’s event, she biked eight miles, something she said made her proud.
If she’s not riding, she’s taking photos and cheering on the cyclists.
This year she said she’s “going to give it my best shot,” and ride as far as she can.
Clarke encourages all women to get their yearly exams and to perform routine self-exams, which is how she found her cancer.
For those currently fighting, she encourages them to “keep the faith,” something she said the event can help with.
“It’s just amazing how everyone comes together,” Clarke said of the community support, adding that the event is always a “wonderful time,” allowing people to join in fellowship for a great cause.
Erny said “the whole community really gets involved,”adding that eight businesses down the island will provide fruits and water to riders along the route.
Herring’s Outdoor Sports, another Surf City establishment is also helping out for the second year by lending out bicycles to people who wish to participate but do not own their own equipment.
Steven Bailey, owner of Herring’s Outdoor Sports, said he and his wife, Jessie Bailey, loan bikes for the ride because they believe in the cause.
“Besides it being a good cause to help out folks who need help, my wife has been through breast cancer, and even though we were covered under our insurance policy, I could see how difficult it could be to some folks,” Steven said, adding that the event itself is “fun, enjoyable ... healthy.”
Steven said Jessie, who has been in remission for about three and a half years now, will be in the ride this year.
He said they have 20 people signed up to borrow a bike for the ride so far. There are a limited number of bikes available to be loaned out, but individuals who want to borrow can call the store at 910-328-3291 to see if there are any left. Those who borrow a bike can pick it up at the shop or have it delivered to the ride’s starting location.
Sandi Lowry, co-owner of Mia’s Marketplace, a gift and specialty store in Surf City, said a bracelet, named Ocean Treasures for its ocean-like hues, was designed especially for the store by LizTech Jewelry, with only 200 limited edition pieces made.
Lowry said the bracelet “took on on its own little life,” once The Reel Housewives adopted it as their group’s bracelet.
Last year, Mia’s donated one bracelet to the Reel Housewives’ silent auction after the bicycle ride, and it sold for more than double its retail price of $120.
This year, Mia’s is specially designing an earring for The Reel Housewives and a pair of those will be auctioned off following the ride. The earrings have not been made yet, though, and will not be available for purchase until after the ride.
Lowry said along with the bracelet is a quote from Mother Teresa which she said fits quite well with The Reel Housewives’ mission.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
People who wish to help The Reel Housewives of Topsail Island, can contact Erny at 910-228-9960.
Want to ride?
Registration for the ride costs $25, and includes participation in the ride, a t-shirt, and lunch after the event. If you missed the registration lunches, you can still register for the ride the morning of the event, too.
The ride starts at 9 a.m. April 5 at Serenity Point, the very southern tip of the island and ends at the north end. All participants should arrive around 8:30 a.m. A lunch and silent auction will be provided at Gilligans following the event.
Check out The Reel Housewives of Topsail Island on Facebook for more information.