"It was really hot -- really, really hot," said Fox, a Cartersville resident. "You can feel the heat from the pavement as you're riding especially on Sugar Valley [Road] where they just paved it. There was plenty of rest stops, which is the only way you can ride on a day like today. They had great rest stops [with] food, all kinds of fruit -- oranges, watermelon at one."
Embarking on their journey before the temperature surpassed 100 degrees, about 700 cyclists participated in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County benefit. Started in 2000, the Cartersville Century has grown exponentially over the past decade, becoming the organization's largest single fundraiser of the year. The ride, which also offers cyclists rest stops every 10 to 15 miles along the course and a post-ride meal, was expected to net the Cartersville nonprofit about $50,000.
"We've gone from originally five volunteers and 160 riders to between 900 and 1,000 riders annually with about 200-plus volunteers," said Gordon Gilley, chief professional officer for Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County. "[Cyclists come from] all over the Southeast [and] the metro area. ... It's a ride, not a competition. So anybody can participate. It's 15, 30, 50 miles or a century route -- a 100-mile route.
"What [the cyclists] really enjoy and keep talking about is not only the great routes that we provide but the support that's due in large part to our rest stops and our volunteers," he said, adding due to the sweltering weather this year, the Cartersville Century drew about 700 cyclists. "Our rest stops are just dynamic. We've got five entities that sponsor them and do them each year and just are fantastic. And we also have SAG vehicles on the course that help riders if they need technical assistance or just a ride back in."
Opened in May 1990 at the Goodyear Clubhouse in the Atco community, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County's temporary location drew 110 children in its first week and 400 by the end of the year. Today, the nonprofit features two locations -- 642 Henderson Drive in Cartersville and 127 King St. in Adairsville -- and serves 300 to 350 children a day with its summer program. During the school year and the summer, the units offer youth ages 6 to 18 supplemental education and activities like arts and crafts, basketball and board games.
"A vast majority, an excess of 90 percent of young people that are involved and stay involved in our Boys & Girls Clubs finish high school," Gilley said. "About 20 percent of them go on to some post high school education opportunity and finish that.
"Our kids, particularly our teens, are employable. They're learning at the club, thanks to a lot of our partners, not only how to be employed but the specific task and technical expertise -- small things like interview skills and the importance of promptness and community services and customer service."
Among the nonprofit's network of support is Adam Wade, who grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for Saturday's post-ride meal. Volunteering at the Cartersville Century since 2003, the Cartersville resident enjoys lending a hand to the local Boys & Girls Clubs.
"[The Boys & Girls Clubs provide] a place [for children] to go and have a meaningful experience every afternoon, especially during the summer. It gets them doing something productive," Wade said. "So [I enjoy being] able to come out and ... help out in some capacity to know that this will provide funding for the year to come."