Arvest Support Spawns Cycling Club for Little Rock Associates
By L. LAMOR WILLIAMS | Photography by LORI SPARKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Most people understand that when a company sponsors a community event, that company is deploying a marketing tactic that aims to elevate its visibility while also supporting a cause. But at Arvest, the bank’s well-known corporate conscientiousness makes it easy to go beyond marketing and weave into its own culture the missions of the various charitable organizations it supports.
In the case of The Big Dam Bridge 100, the Little Rock market is more than a presenting sponsor that provides financial support and associates who hand out water at rest stops and cheer on riders as they pass. This year, Arvest Little Rock has a newly developed cycling club that will join the ride in September.
“One of the things that makes Arvest such a great place to work is the company’s commitment to making a positive impact on the communities we serve. We’re not only encouraged but empowered at all levels to give back,” says Ron Witherspoon, president and CEO of Arvest Bank in Central Arkansas. “Through our involvement with The Big Dam Bridge 100, we were already helping get people moving and active, and now we’re helping our own associates improve their health and inspire their colleagues to do the same.”
The Arvest cycling club is for associates and family members of all skill levels, says Maret Cahill Wicks, a community marketing manager, cycling club organizer and member. “We organize group rides monthly and it’s been the perfect way to discover new routes, connect with riding buddies, improve group-riding skills, and connect with fellow cyclists in a social setting,” Maret says. “We’ve also been learning things from each other like bike-repair tips, workout ideas, and other tips for improving technique.”
The camaraderie is what made the club attractive to Hillis Schild, executive director of the Arvest Opportunity Fund. “I love to bike because it makes me feel like I’m on vacation. There’s a sense of freedom being on the road and seeing things you don’t normally see,” Hillis says. “It’s also been a great opportunity to meet others who like to bike. I didn’t know anyone else besides my husband.”
The Big Dam Bridge 100 is both a physical challenge and a scenic ride that draws about 3,500 participants annually from around the country, says Bruce Dunn, executive director of The Big Dam Bridge 100. And while it has “100” in its name, not all participants will be riding 100 miles, Bruce says. “The BDB 100 offers several routes ranging between 15 and 105 miles,” he says. “And of course you can’t forget the rest of the name. At 4,226 feet, the Big Dam Bridge is the longest bridge built for pedestrian and bicycle traffic in North America.”Maret said the plan is for the cycling group to complete at least the 15-mile leg, but some of the more ambitious cyclists may take on the 25-, 50-, 75- or 105- mile routes.
A portion of the proceeds generated by the ride are used by The Big Dam Bridge Foundation along with government partners and private stakeholders to leverage donations in order to make improvements to the Big Dam Bridge and along the Arkansas River Trail, Bruce says.
Registration for the 2023 Big Dam Bridge 100 will remain open through Sept. 22, and the ride will begin at 7 a.m. on Sept. 23. More details and a registration link can be found at thebigdambridge100.com/.