Mormon Riders Put Good Samaritan Spin on Pollie Pedal

  • 20 April 2012

 Latter-day Saint riders L to R, Grant Innis, Alex Gomez, Leo Gomez, Justin Coulsen

Pollie Pedal is an annual, bi-partisan, 1000K bike-a-thon designed to allow political leaders and other vigorous citizens to raise money for a good cause. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a long-time sponsor of Pollie Pedal, provided dinner for the bikers and their support staff on the first night of the ride. Bussing participants to the Braeside meetinghouse for the meal, the Church also provided displays about Latter-day Saint beliefs for the riders to peruse.

Leo Gomez called the dinner “the unsurpassed benchmark for the week,” and said, “We received repeated glowing comments over the days that followed. From the number of questions we received about the Church, it was apparent that the impression made by that first evening was considerable.”

“It is always an honour to represent the Church,” Leo added, “but to do so in Pollie Pedal is a privilege and a pleasure. The pollies could just attend the social functions, but so many of them get on the bikes and actually pump out the money for the charities.”

Money raised by Pollie Pedal 2012 will go to Carers Australia, the national body representing Australia’s 2.6 million care givers for the disabled, and Manly Women’s Shelter, a haven for women who are homeless. Pollie Pedal, now in its fifteenth year, ended at Parliament House in Canberra on 1 April.

This year the bikers had something besides dinner to look forward to at the end of each day’s gruelling ride. The participating Mormons sparked up the evening meals with a Good Samaritan Award, which they presented to a rider who came to the aid of a fellow biker along the route.

The stories of good deeds done, the bestowal of a box of chocolates, and the camaraderie induced by the award became a favourite part of the day for the weary participants.

The idea, suggested by Latter-day Saint rider, Leo Gomez, arose from the “flat” feeling that seemed to pervade at the end of each day’s ride. Leo is an architect specializing in design and construction of laboratory buildings throughout Australia, parts of the Middle East and Asia, and the Pacific.

He and his fellow Saints, Alex Gomez, Grant Innis and Justin Coulson, wanted to do something that would bring the bikers together with a “feel good” moment.

Justin, a researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of Wollongong, said, “We were concerned it was a bit ‘cheesy’ for the affluent riders and that it would not take off. But it became a huge success.”

People started seeking out the Mormon instigators to tell them about benevolent deeds. “It built up into something that evoked a sense of brotherhood,” added Justin. “Everyone became interested in reaching out to push on those who were struggling.”

Typical of the Good Samaritan was a rider who owns a transport company in Melbourne. Learning that another biker had a part go out in the remote town of Orbost, he rang his wife, who bought the part from a supplier. He then had one of his drivers deliver the part to Orbost—eight hours round trip—at no charge to the broken-down biker.

“Through the Good Samaritan Awards, we found out what remarkable people we were biking with,” adds Justin.

Riders this year included politicians from both sides of the political spectrum, corporate managers, sponsors and private enterprise representatives.

The Hon Tony Abbott MHR, founder of the fund-raising charity event, speaking at the opening ceremony of this year’s ride, said, “I’d like to thank the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have contributed and sponsored Pollie Pedal for many years now. I am not a Mormon, however I can tell you they are good people, and I’m pleased to know them.”

According to the four Mormon riders, many bikers took the opportunity to ask questions about the Church. “They asked about our missionaries, about our standards of chastity and fidelity,” said Justin, “and many cannot believe we do not drink alcohol.”

Justin is on the organizing council of The World Congress for Families to be held in Sydney in 2013.  On the roads from Geelong VIC to Canberra, many fellow “pedalers” asked him about families in the Church.

The fourth Mormon biker, Grant Innis, has ridden for many years, strongly believing in the good Pollie Pedal does for Australians in need. Only weeks before this year’s ride, one of his sons sustained serious injuries in a surfing accident. Without question, Grant and his family could be on the receiving end of help as they were now attempting to rally their own strength and faith. Nevertheless, Grant rode on the first and the last day—wanting still to bring relief to others despite his own sorrows.  

“I’ll be back next year,” Grant said, not unlike the original Good Samaritan.