2017 is a milestone for the organizer of the Hope Ride, Paul Ashbrook, and The Surprising Little Town of Hope with its 2000+ members. It will be the 30th year!

When Paul first conceived the idea, I suspect he was riding his bicycle out on the country going by some grazing cows. He had no idea whether or not it would be successful and probably didn't care as long as he could get in some miles during the day. Well, there were 13 riders with the local cows only getting a glance of them now and then. Still, it generated over $1,500!

Not to be deterred, Paul chose to have another one the next year with amazing growth to where over 1,500 riders are expected this year. Evidently, the 13 riders and all the cows got the message out about all the good reasons to take in the Hope Ride. Of course, Paul delivered his clever Top Ten Reasons with one suggesting to all riders that there would not be a single dull moment and one empty stomach if showing up for the event or something like that. There is no way I can match Paul's wit!

Besides, their presence would help multiple worthy causes. I can't think of many, if any, Hope organizations that have not benefited in some way. It is the magic that happens when givers come to a town that is blessed with givers throughout our rich history! In addition, money has flowed into Columbus organizations as well as into organizations in other small towns around Hope. Over $500,000 has been generated from the Hope Ride over the years.

It has happened without any formal meetings and without Paul receiving any money for all his time and effort. The Hope Ride Headquarters is located in a pasture! I am aware of a few gatherings after the event arranged by Paul for his army of volunteers to celebrate.

It is true a lot of things have changed in Paul's life over 30 years. When he started the Hope Ride, he was single. Now, he is married to Carol and has two daughters who are both in college, Abbey and Annie. For years, Paul spent a lot of hours managing The Hope Food Mart. Now, he is spending a lot of hours in the classroom as a teacher. He can share multiple interesting stories about each experience. As the rides go by, he has lost several key people in his life with the latest being his sister, Jill.

But, the spirit of a ride in the country with other riders, and cows, never changes. It is just special, something that revives the senses and eliminates the excesses that easily compile! Paul is encouraging the entire community to get away from the madness of society to mingle on the square with the riders this year for the Moos & Blues Musical Festival.

Will there be another Hope Ride? Well, I am sure Paul could easily give "10 Top Reason for Stopping" but suspect he will continue. When asked by his students why he wanted to do this one, he simply stated his appreciation for the Roman numeral XXX. When I asked about a reason for doing 31, Paul suggested there would be one as long as he is still pedaling. Besides, 31 is a prime number!

Undoubtedly, the Hope Ride is an amazing event! It is such due to the vision of Paul Ashbrook and others knowing the importance of supporting it. In 2011, Paul fittingly received the James A. Henderson Award for Fund Raising. I have a personal letter from Mr. Henderson, former CEO of Cummins, after sending him a thank you for his comments related to a White House Conference on Corporate Citizenship.

He responded with the following: "We all depend on one another-bringing our individual talents, energy, and hearts to work together to solve problems!"