VeloCity Atlanta 2021: Q and A on history of Grady’s annual fundraiser

For four years VeloCity Atlanta has been raising funds for Grady Memorial Hospital. In that time, it has aimed to get the community to support a facility that is committed to providing health care to all.

While there are some changes this year, the goal remains the same: to gain financial support from the community to protect staff and patients — especially amid the ongoing pandemic.

ExploreVeloCity Atlanta 2021: Register now to support Grady’s front-line heroes

Joselyn Butler Baker, president of the Grady Health Foundation, has been there since the beginning. She spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the origins of the charity bike ride and where it’s heading as a cycling/running/walking event in support of Grady.

Q. Can you talk about the origins of the ride?

A. The concept of a ride for Grady came from the Grady Health Foundation, and now Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation board member, John Gregg, who is chairman and CEO of Truist Securities and an avid cyclist. He was familiar with successful cycling fundraisers in other areas of the country and suggested it as a means for Grady to broaden its base of support. He was also aware that Medalist Sports, which runs pro and for-cause events across the nation, was located right here in Peachtree City. Initial brainstorming started in the fall of 2016 and the first ride was held in May 2018. We hosted over 950 cyclists in our first year — which told us we were onto something exciting for Grady.

Q. Why was it important for it to be a ride rather than a race? What about the importance of the event at large as a peer-to-peer fundraiser for Grady?

A. It was always our goal to make this an event for everyone and anyone. Joining a ride, run or walk, rather than a race is less intimidating for those who may be doing this for the first time, or who don’t race regularly. That said, we are proud to offer an event that also appeals to those with lots of experience. With regard to the peer-to-peer model, as our participants connect with their friends, family, or co-workers on our behalf, we build even greater awareness for the critical role that Grady plays in our community… and our participants build their own cheering sections!

Q. How has raising money for Grady through VeloCity impacted the hospital from the ride’s inception to now?

A. Every dollar donated to Grady makes an impact. As a safety-net hospital with a large percentage of uninsured patients, we rely upon donations to fill the gap between what we receive through government support and insurance reimbursement and the cost of delivering care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we used the funds raised by VeloCity to provide additional support to our frontline heroes, who continue to work tirelessly, helping not only those impacted by the pandemic, but all who come to Grady for chronic disease, traumatic medical incidents, or primary care.

ExploreVeloCity Atlanta 2021: What’s new at this year’s Grady fundraiser

Q. This year is very different than the past rides. For one, it’s been expanded to walkers and runners — why was that an important change to make from your perspective?

A. As an institution, Grady is here for our entire community. While we are very proud of the fantastic, diverse set of cyclists we attracted in the past, we also realized there was a barrier to participation. People wanted to join us — but they either didn’t ride or didn’t have a bike. Walking or running is something that anyone can do, at any age or level of ability — and all you need is a pair of shoes. We’ve been thrilled to see strong registration across both our cycling and run/walk options and look forward to celebrating Grady both on wheels and on our feet!

Q. Why was the change in location a necessary thing to do?

A. We were so fortunate to hold this event for two years at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the surrounding campus — what a way to introduce the ride! That said, there are limits and safety concerns with staging an event like ours on city streets — especially as we implement COVID-19 related protocols. While the decision to move the event was necessary — it was also a great opportunity. We are thrilled to be working with the team at Bouckaert Farm at Chattahoochee Hills and excited for our participants to have this new experience. This 8,000-acre new venue is simply breathtaking — and it sits right in the middle of some of the best cycling routes in our state. It’s also pretty cool to know that you are hanging out at the same location that Black Panther, Iron Man and other superheroes have spent some time!

Q. What do you want riders, walkers and runners to know about how their participation is leaving a financial impact on Grady?

A. A donation to Grady is a donation to our community. Our impact goes far beyond what happens inside of our walls. By keeping the thousands of patients who come to Grady for care every year healthy — and helping them address social determinants of health such as food and housing insecurity — we help make Atlanta stronger and ensure equitable opportunity for those who call our community home.

Q. Is there anything you want to see from the ride going forward?

A. We hope it will continue to grow — and become an event that people look forward to being part of every year. And, of course, we hope that growth includes not only participation but funds raised for Grady. We will know we have been successful when we have an army of participants excited not only to ride, run or walk, but to solicit donations on our behalf because they understand that Atlanta really can’t live without Grady!

To register for VeloCity 2021, visit velocityatlanta.com and click the “register” button. Then, choose from riding, running/walking for Grady or donating to the hospital. You can also register to volunteer.

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