CARROLLTON – Almost 30 years ago, kids at First Baptist Church at The Fields in Carrollton began riding their bikes in laps around the church once a year to raise money for missions through Texas Baptist Men (TBM). A new generation is keeping the practice alive, recently raising $2,801 for TBM Disaster Relief in one evening.
At annual Wheel-a-Thon children, get pledges for how many laps they can make around a church parking lot. Eight laps equal one mile. Participants can ride anything with wheels – bicycles, in-line skates, scooters, etc. Or they can walk.
Thirty-five to 40 children participated this year, with one boy riding 62 laps on a bicycle in 50 minutes, said Mark Forester, church Royal Ambassadors (RAs) director.
RAs is a mission discipleship organization for boys in grades 1-6. It promotes growth by developing biblical character in all aspects of life. It is led by TBM. RAs leaders use activities to help boys learn about God’s mission and understand how they are part of it.
The Wheel-a-Thon was not just about raising money, Forester said. “It gets the kids thinking about something else outside of themselves, … about helping other people in Jesus’ name.”
Savion Lee, TBM state RA coordinator, said the Carrollton event is ”special because it connects the RAs with their local church body.” It helps church members learn about RAs and the group’s missions involvement.
Lee and Ryan Lenamon, TBM director of donor relations, spoke to the children the following week about TBM’s varied ministries to help people in need and to share the good news of hope through Christ.
“Discipleship events such as these are critical to our youth,” said Lenamon. “These are the future leaders of our country and our world. Discipleship matters. If discipleship doesn’t come from the church, it will come from somewhere else.”
Forester started the Wheel-a-Thon in 1993, and one of the RA leaders, the son-in-law of Bob Dixon (then TBM executive director) recommended the money raised be given to TBM Disaster Relief. After the event, Dixon attended a RA chapter meeting to receive a cardboard check celebrating the amount raised. The church has held the event every year since, except for 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Wheel-a-Thon used to be for the boys in RAs. Since moving to a new church location in 2019, the girls in Girls in Action (GAs) joined in, and the younger boys and girls in Mission Friends joined in this year. One of the Mission Friends boys alone raised $500 for the cause, Forester said.
The RA and GA leaders also added some competition to the mix this year. Lainie Applegate, the GA director, got a pie in the face following the event because the boys raised more money than the girls.
“I am so thankful that our boys and girls had the opportunity to learn about TBM and how to support their mission efforts,” Applegate said. “I love teaching children that hard work and serving others can be fun!”