Brian Fee had already planned on doing a “century ride,” cycling 100 miles, “for my own sanity.”
When the opportunity arose to take that long bike ride in the name of charity, he jumped on it.
Fee, of Blue Island, will bike 100 miles on Oct. 10 in support of the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls Heroes program.
Normally, that program has an entry in the Chicago Marathon, which was scheduled for Oct. 11 but will be held virtually due to COVID-19.
Instead, Mercy Home is encouraging people to still run 26.2 miles or take on their own custom challenge that weekend.
Fee plans to take on several trails in the south suburbs.
“I’m using 90-percent trail system,” Fee said. “I’ve done this ride before a couple years ago. Of the 100 miles, roughly 10 of them are going to be on surface streets.”
Fee, who grew up in the parish of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, ventured into cycling four years ago.
His friend Kristin Vanderbilt, a Beverly native, recommended he ride in support of Mercy Home after his attempt to enter the Chicago Marathon fell through.
Vanderbilt often supports Mercy Home with an annual “Santa’s Little Helpers” toy drive at Rock Island Public House in Blue Island, and she has volunteered at the girls campus of the Mercy Home location in Morgan Park.
Fee will ride with his friend Dan Lynch, of Blue Island, and he has his own South Side Century Ride fundraising page on the Mercy Home website. He is excited that his upcoming ride will take on more meaning.
“It’s more fun when you sign up for stuff with a team or other people,” Fee said. “It kind of works out for the best for everybody. It takes it more to the next level.”
According to its website, since 1887, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls has helped over 30,000 kids facing neglect and abuse.
In 2019, over 1,100 youth and families were supported through residential, aftercare, mentoring and referral programs.
Individuals and teams in support of this year’s Heroes program, including Fee, have raised thousands of dollars.
He had brought in over $1,100 toward his $1,500 goal by press time, a high mark considering his original goal was $500. He thinks that celebrating his 41st birthday in late September might have helped supporters pitch in.
Fee will begin his ride in Blue Island, cycling on streets to Lansing. He’ll then head onto the Thorn Creek Trail, taking that south to Old Plank Trail, which ends in Joliet. There, he’ll head back north, cycling on the Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail, which links up to Centennial Trail. He’ll end on the Cal-Sag Trail, which winds its way into Blue Island.
The route provides an escape into nature, he said.
“It’s amazing. You don’t even know where you are,” Fee said. “The trail in Lansing is absolutely gorgeous.”
On the Illinois and Michigan Trail, he’ll ride on a path where mules once pulled barges.
“It’s like riding through a history book seeing all these sites,” Fee said. “It’s really neat. And it’s not that far away. You’re a few miles from the city of Chicago a few times.”
Fee said family and friends will set up stations along the route to help him with supplies and other needs. When he completed the ride in 2017, he said, he was “super-unprepared” and wanted to give up multiple times during the final 20 miles.
He has suffered a couple major injuries while cycling, including a broken collarbone and broken ankle, but he feels prepared for this century ride.
If the public health crisis fades away, he sees more official group bike rides in his future.
“I would love to do that,” Fee said, “next year.”
To support Fee's ride for the Mercy Home Heroes program, visit https://marathon.mercyhome.org/heroes-challenge/south-side-century-ride-bf