Tour de Belleville Fundraiser in Belleville, IL

By Michaela Jackson on June 22, 2011 at 9:14 pm EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Ian Curcio

Every summer, a growing group of conscientious citizens gathers for an ambling bike ride through downtown Belleville, followed by ice cream treats for all.

The annual Tour de Belleville is a favorite even for children, who can ride a shorter version of the near 20-mile course. The real draw for many riders, though, is the summer moonlight; the ride doesn’t kick off until 9 p.m.

Phil Elmore and his wife, Barb, began organizing the race three years ago to raise money for public safety projects the city couldn’t afford.

“The safety equipment that we purchase are usually things that are a great enhancement to a community, but they are not things that a city is going to budget for,” Elmore says.

“In these tough economic times on city budgets, those kinds of enhancements get chopped first, usually.”

Phil Elmore, an insurance agent, and his wife, a teacher, felt a responsibility to the safety of their community simply because raising the money privately was the only way Belleville could afford such amenities.

The first year, the ride raised money for a speed monitor because the Elmores felt that drivers weren’t careful enough in neighborhoods. They threw the project together in three months, and 575 riders turned out.

“We knew right off the bat that we had something that was huge,” Elmore says.

The second year, the ride raised money to install an emergency call button on a bike path. Their registration nearly doubled to 1,080, and the money they raised tripled. The city was able to put in two emergency call buttons with the additional funds.

In 2008, riders pleaded for flashing yellow lights at two dangerous points in the road where the bike path crosses swift traffic. That year, the July 11 event brought in nearly 1,400 riders and roughly $30,000, enough to pay for the lights.

The Elmores, who met while members of a civic organ­ization, say they enjoy giving back to the community, and safety is a meaningful way for them to get involved.

“When we run it, it just reaffirms our faith that, generally speaking, people are good hearted, and if you give people an opportunity to do something good, they’re going to get behind it,” Elmore says. “That makes it worthwhile for us.”

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