Among the people involved in Bo Jackson’s bike ride for tornado relief are a local firefighter and the president of the firm overseeing the demolition of downtown Cordova.
“I’m looking forward to it. Home field advantage is the way I look at it,” said Jeremy Harbin of Jasper.
The Tuscaloosa fire station where Harbin has worked for seven years was heavily damaged on April 27, 2011.
He rode the Cullman to Jasper route of Bo Bikes Bama last year in a show of support for others who were affected by the storms.
Harbin said Jackson’s passion for the cause was evident, even as the two-sport legend joked about being an “old man” whose body was taking a beating biking 300 miles across north Alabama.
“It gave a different perspective of somebody in his shoes, that people who are famous really do care,” Harbin said.
Brian Roberson, president of Cullman-based Civicon LLC, and his wife, Karen, were with Jackson on the Guntersville to Cullman route last year.
Both the tornado that tore through Cullman in 2011 and the first anniversary bike ride passed directly in front of the couple’s home.
Roberson said Jackson and the other celebrity cyclists all seemed willing to do whatever they could to help storm survivors.
“We were very impressed with their enthusiasm to be there and to stop along the way to talk to people who were out cheering. It was the most emotional 60 mile ride of my life,” Roberson said.
Roberson registered for Bo Bikes Bama 2, which starts and finishes in Cordova, several weeks before his company was awarded the contract for downtown demolition. Civicon started the project on Tuesday.
Roberson will ride past the work site Saturday morning on one of Jackson’s personal bikes from last year’s ride. It was later auctioned to raise money for tornado relief.
Roberson said that as someone who has been personally affected by the tornadoes, his desire to give back includes, not only the bike ride, but his firm’s work in Cordova as well.
“Civicon is committed to helping the community and not just here to make a dollar,” he said.
Although Bo Bikes Bama is mainly a fundraiser for the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund, it has the potential to effect change in other areas besides tornado relief.
The local cycling group that Harbin and his wife, Ashley, belong to were joined in one of their recent training sessions by a Cullman resident. The woman has taken up cycling since the bike ride came through her town last year.
“The ride didn’t necessarily make it (cycling) more popular, but it is raising awareness. People don’t tend to think of it as a sport or exercise and even get mad that we’re holding up traffic when we have as much right on the road as a car,” Harbin said.
Harbin added that he hopes this year’s ride, which will be contained within Walker County, will also combat decades of bad press.
“Walker County has always had a black eye in the media and surrounding areas when they don’t realize how beautiful this place is or the brunt of the devastation that we took,” Harbin said.
Cordova High School has been chosen as the hub for Bo Bikes Bama 2.
The 60-mile ride will start at the school at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Cyclists participating in the 20-mile ride will leave from the school at 10 a.m.
Rest stops are planned along the route in Sipsey, Jasper and Boldo. Members of local service organizations will be manning each of the stops.
Cyclists are expected to arrive at CHS around noon.
A silent auction is planned for today from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham.
Bo Bikes Bama has raised more than $600,000 for the cause of recovery so far, according to the official website.