Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
Lewis Smith was a runner until he was in a car accident and had to have screws inserted into his ankle. When he realized he needed to lose weight back in 2008, the now 71-year-old was told by his physician that cycling was good exercise and would not put strain on his ankle.
Since then, Smith has cycled at least 20,000 miles, and in September his goal is to ride 600 miles to raise money for the nonprofit Baptist Children’s Home (BCH) of North Carolina, where he has been the western area director of development for almost 20 years.
“My job has been to travel throughout Western North Carolina speaking, preaching, and informing, to raise money for the 23 diverse ministries across the state and the three children’s homes in Guatemala, as well as adoption agency offices in North Carolina and South Carolina. Places like Moody Family Care Home and Drake Cottage, which are here in Macon County, always need funds for operating costs.”
The September fundraising ride will be his second. In 2008, after training for a short time, he decided to ride 571 miles throughout Western North Carolina to raise $50,000 for BCH. He ended up raising $70,000.
“In the process of the 2008 event, I caught the cycling bug,” said Smith. “I would ride 15-25 miles a few times a week and have kept it up since then.”
More recently, the president of BCH suggested Smith consider cycling the whole state, from Murphy to Manteo, to embark on another fundraiser. However, Smith’s health insurance company was not keen on him cycling on major roads and thoroughfares, due to safety concerns.
“So I compromised with this bike ride,” he said.
The effort is called Bike for Hope, and other than Sherry, his wife of 51 years, Smith will be alone – “other than with Jesus” – to ride 600 miles on places “where there is no traffic.” He added, “I plan to do 12 days and ride 50 miles a day to try to raise $100,000.”
Trained as a Baptist preacher and called into the ministry in 1972, Smith has been with BCH since 2004. Prior to this second career, he pastored churches beginning in 1976. Born in North Carolina, he has been in Macon County since age 9.
“I don’t hunt, fish, golf, and I never thought as a young man that I would be interested in cycling, but it just connected with me and I feel so free on a bicycle,” he said, “and I’ve always been drawn to children’s ministries, and BCH is a wonderful ministry. They care for thousands of children. If money is not raised, we have to say no to a child who might need us so desperately.”
Already, Smith said he is “making progress” raising money for BCH. Individuals can sponsor him by either sending a check marked “Bike for Hope” in the memo line to BCH, PO Box 338, Thomasville, N.C., or by contacting him at 828-421-9300; email@example.com.
Smith said he expects to make his 600-mile goal, and he is hopeful to raise the necessary funds to “ensure that a girl who had no place to sleep now has a warm, comfortable bed. The boy who has gone days at a time without eating will now have nutritious, regular meals and snacks … to meet the tremendous needs of vulnerable children in our state … to see children receive the compassionate care they deserve.”