Cycling with a Purpose: Donna Kummer
In 1996, Donna Kummer saw a notice in her church asking people to join a bike ride that raised money for Habitat for Humanity. She and her husband bought a tandem bike and off she went on her first Habitat 500 ride.
Habitat 500 was a cycling fundraiser that toured around the Midwest, mostly in Minnesota. Over its 30 years, the event raised over $7 million and connected hundreds of Habitat supporters and cyclists each summer.
Donna participated two years in a row before taking a break and joining again 10 years later. She enjoyed cycling, but at this point didn’t have a connection with Habitat. Then, she met a Habitat homeowner.
“She was a music teacher with four kids and her husband had left,” Donna said. “She taught piano to kids out of the house. When we met her, she was on the board, her kids were in college, and she was giving back what she got to the community.”
Donna, a fellow musician, connected with the homeowner. It was then that Donna’s perspective of the ride changed.
“At that point the mission started affecting me as much as the ride,” Donna said.
The Habitat 500 event retired last year, so Donna and a group of volunteers took it upon themselves to organize a new ride: The Bike.Build.Home 500.
“There was a lot of crisis the first year because we had to wrap our brains around how to make the race different than when Habitat was running it,” Donna said.
The new Bike.Build.Home 500 race allows riders to raise money for any affordable housing organization, and many participants choose Habitat for Humanity. The race also used to include sleeping in different places throughout the week. Now, riders stay in one location and do different loops each day.
Although the ride has changed since being an official Habitat event, the riders are just as dedicated.
“When you find people who are willing to give a week of vacation time to bike and raise money, you know that you have a really good group of people,” Donna said. “You will never find a kinder biking community.”
One year, Donna and a group of riders were sitting around a campfire talking about bike tires.
“I [shared that] I was contemplating bringing a 20 inch replacement tire [for myself],” Donna said.
A fellow rider and the ride’s bike mechanic replied saying “I’m carrying a 20 inch tire.”
Donna asked him why, since it was a different tire than his bike used.
He replied “I know what you ride.”
“He lives in the Twin Cities and I see him twice a year,” Donna said. “But he knew I was coming. [He carried it for me.]”
To Donna, the community built by this bike ride, both in riders and supporters, is what makes it special.
“The positive energy of the group makes it feel like a magical week,” Donna said. “It’s the comradery and raising money for affordable housing organizations. I almost always cry in the car on the way home.”
The Bike.Build.Home 500 is the perfect example of community helping community. This community gathers every year to raise money in order to bring affordable housing to other communities.
Donna chose to raise money for Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. All of the money that Donna raises goes directly to bringing stability through housing to Milwaukee families. Since her start, she has raised over $150,000 for Milwaukee Habitat.
Being a homeowner herself, Donna understands the importance of affordable housing.
“People can work hard and still not feel secure in housing,” Donna said. “Once I was able to purchase my home, the amount of stress that went away was huge. No matter what happened, I would have a roof over my head. I knew what that stress felt like.”
Donna is dedicated to helping others experience the stability that homeownership can provide and is grateful to her fundraising community.
Donna has over 100 donors and supporters who she maintains good contact with. She sends out emails and thanks her supporters on Facebook. Her community is large and strong.
To celebrate her donor community and thank them, she hosts an annual ice cream sundae party where she makes homemade fudge sauce and caramel sauce. People gather in her home to eat ice cream and celebrate their fundraising success.
Donna embodies the concept that one person can make a difference. Donna has helped create the Bike.Build.Home 500 and her fundraising community. She has raised over $150,000 to bring affordable housing to Milwaukee families. She does so with a humbleness and excitement that is felt in the community around her. She does it all to help community foster community.
And she loves it.
“It’s the week I look forward to the most of the entire year,” Donna said.
Thank you, Donna!
If you are interested in participating in Bike.Build.Home 500 or donating to the ride, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.