N.C. Department of Correction--Correction News--October 1998

Officer uses love of cycling to help others

SHELBY — Sandy Swafford, a correctional sergeant at Cleveland Correctional Center, took up cycling eight years ago as a way to stay in shape and have fun with friends.

Over the years, his love for cycling has grown and so have his reasons for climbing on his bike and pedaling for miles.

These days, instead of just cycling to burn off a few extra pounds or to spend a few days with friends riding bikes to the beach, Swafford cycles to raise money to help the underprivileged boys and girls at The Children’s Home in Winston-Salem.

Each year, Swafford dedicates one special bike ride to The Children’s Home. This year’s ride had him pedaling 217 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The two-day ride began in Northern Virginia and ended across the state line in North Carolina. Swafford cycled 106 miles the first day and 111 miles the second day – all to raise money for children.

"The challenge this year was more difficult than in years past," he said. "As I climbed the many mountains, my inspiration came from the children less fortunate than ours."

Swafford, who has two sons of his own, 10-year-old Tyler and 4-year-old Jared, became inspired to raise money for The Children’s Home after the Methodist Men’s Group at his church took a tour of the home for troubled youth.

"It just stuck with me," he said. "I was really impressed by the work they do there, and I wanted to do something to help these children."

At the time of the tour, Swafford was a correctional officer at Lincoln Correctional Center and also an avid cycler. He and several other officers had been riding and training together for several years, and twice, had ridden their bikes from Lincolnton to Myrtle Beach. Looking for a way to help The Children’s Home, Swafford decided to do it by getting friends, neighbors and co-workers to sponsor one of his long bike rides each year.

Swafford recently biked 217 miles along
the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"I kept thinking that there must be something that I could do to help," he said. "Since I was riding anyway, I decided to raise money by cycling."

Each year before taking off to ride more than 200 miles on his bike, Swafford sends out letters to his friends and churches in the community asking for donations. Over the last seven years, he said he has raised between $500 and $800 per ride.

"The Children’s Home is run by the Methodist Church, and the only way they get money is through donations," he said. "So if I only raised one dollar, it would still be one dollar more than they had."

Swafford prepares for his long treks by alternating riding 20 to 30 miles on his bike and jogging two to four miles each day for months leading up to his trip – all of this after a full day’s work as a correctional officer, tending to the chores of his farm and seeing to the needs of his family.

"I’m just a correctional sergeant here at Cleveland trying to stay half-way healthy and do something for someone less fortunate than I am," he said.

Anyone interested in supporting Swafford’s efforts may send donations to The Children’s Home,1001 Reynolds Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27199-2527. Please make your checks payable to "The Childrens Home, Inc." and note the donation is in recognition of Swafford’s bike ride. u

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