By John Welsh
The pirates came. The pirates rode. The pirates donated.
And then they drank like pirates.
A second annual charity bash and bike ride converged at up-and-coming microbrewery Cismontane last week to benefit a Rancho Santa Margarita family dealing with an ongoing fight with cancer.
Tyler Blick, who played his first Little League game of the season earlier that day, is the blond-haired, 5-year-old son of Steve Blick, who rode with other mountain-bike enthusiasts through parts of his hometown. Most of the riders donned eye patches, silly hats, fake parrots on their shoulders and held plastic swords in the pirate-themed, one-hour trek.
And, of course, riders blurted many an “Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!” for good measure.
It was the brainchild of Andy Lightle, who organized the charity event that concluded with a nighttime raffle to help his mountain-bike buddy, Steve Blick.
Several years ago, Lightle said, he realized he had everything he needed in life.
“I was introduced to the idea of celebrating my birthday by helping others,” Lightle said.
So the Tustin man began doing charity bike rides to help battered women, shelters for women and children, and other worthy causes. Then he found out about Blick’s son’s fight with leukemia. The transition from helping strangers to helping a good friend was a natural one.
“I may have been the initial person that started this, but the reality is, it’s all these people from the community coming out and supporting it that make it a success,” said Lightle, whose 44th birthday celebration coincided with the ride and raffle.
More than 100 mountain bikers came from various area bike clubs, including SHARE of Orange County, the RADS of Laguna Beach and the Warriors Society of Southern California. The afternoon ride started from the back of the Cismontane Brewing Company at 29851 Aventura.
Participants posed for silly photos and then darted off with an “ahoy!” here and a “matey!” there. The swashbuckling riders pedaled along Aventura and eventually made their way to O’Neill Regional Park. As the sun started getting lower and the shadows deeper on the foothills below Santiago Peak, the riders returned in large packs.
They dotted the busy Santa Margarita Parkway and crossed the bridge overlooking the wide creekbed below it. Think of the Tour de France, only a slower, more colorful and far more animated. Some motorists surely must have looked twice as they noticed the bicycle riding pirates with red-and-black leotards, puffy shirts and skull-and-crossbones-decorated hats.
Cismontane’s tasting room was starting to get busy with others who opted to support the event without all that pedaling. Evan Weinberg and Ross Stewart, owners of Cismontane, gave Lightle the use of their new side room where the brewers have just installed large stainless steel tanks for future Cismontane production.
Lightle’s wife, Heather, and other volunteers, organized the donated raffle prizes, which included many mountain-bike related goodies: frames, forks, pumps, helmet video cameras, jerseys and books. All told, the event topped last year’s $3,000 raised for the Blick family.
As Lightle put it, the Blicks' insurance covers some of the expenses for the family—but not everything. They’ve still got plenty of bills piling up, so the amount raised will certainly help a little, Lightle said. Blick, sporting a white T-shirt with a homemade large “R” across his chest in duct tape (that was the wink-wink extent of his pirate “costume”—as in R for Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!) stood outside Cismontane’s tasting room with two friends before the raffle got into full swing.
He was almost embarrassed to talk about being the recipient of such good will.
“There are other families going through this,” Blick said, pausing to find the right words. “There are so many families with children with cancer. And we’re just one, so this is truly a humbling experience. We’re so grateful.”