Animal lovers and avid exercisers don’t always cross paths, but making it her mission is the bubbly Wendy Maguire – a local business owner with a hobby for cycling and a penchant for saving animals. And that’s just in her spare time.
When she’s not running her two restaurants, Maguire’s Irish Pub in Senoia and Crosstown Grille in Peachtree City, or holding events to raise money for her charity organization, Pedal for Pets, or training for her upcoming cross-country cycling race, Wendy meets with me to share her heart about the forgotten animals in our community.
“When I was little, I wasn’t allowed to watch “Lassie” because I would get too emotional,” she tells me, stone-faced, before she breaks into an amused grin and animated giggle.
I almost let her carefree spirit and easy laughter fool me. But Wendy Maguire doesn’t have time to be laid-back. She’s got a race to train for.
“I started cycling six years ago, because I had broken my heel in a motorcycle accident, and I couldn’t run anymore,” she explains. “One day I had an epiphany while I was out on a bike ride and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I should bicycle and raise money for animals, because that’s my passion and I should just do it! I keep saying I’m gonna gonna gonna, but when am I really going to do something?’”
After that ah-ha moment, Wendy went home and pitched an idea to her 18-year old son. “I said to him, ‘Hey, you wanna go on a long bike ride with me and we will raise money for animals?’ and he said, ‘Sure, Mom.’ He had no idea what I was thinking.”
That inaugural bike ride with her son turned into an annual three-day tour, trekking from Senoia to Savannah, with all the proceeds raising funds for community animals in need of spay and neuter operations.
“That three-day ride became Pedal for Pets, a real 501(c)3 organization. We fund trap, neuter and release programs for feral cats all over this area,” Wendy says. “We provide animal food and funding for rabies shots and spay/neuter operations and we match grants for local shelters and animal control. We do what is needed to fill in the gap in the community.”
The three-day Pedal for Pets ride is entering its sixth year, and with that kind of momentum, Wendy and her organization have taken on a bigger challenge: teaming up with the Race Across America. Best known as the most challenging endurance bicycle race in the world, the Race Across America (RAAM) is a 3000-mile cycling race from Oceanside, Calif. to Annapolis, Md.
RAAM is a continual race, meaning once the clock begins, someone on each team is continuously cycling at all times. It is about 30% longer than the Tour de France, spanning 3,000 miles across 12 states and climbing about 170,000 vertical feet. Racers must complete the distance in a maximum of nine days (most finish in about seven and a half days), which is roughly half the time allowed for the Tour de France. Teams will be riding 350-500 miles per day, racing non-stop. To say that this race is difficult is an understatement. But the Pedal for Pets team is up for the challenge.
Sandy Wisenbaker, the Solicitor-General for Coweta County, fellow animal-loving advocate and one of the eight team members who will be cycling in the RAAM, joins Wendy in her enthusiasm for the upcoming event. “We are just two of the eight crazy women that are coming together to raise funds and awareness for this great cause, Pedal for Pets,” she says.
And that is what truly sets this team of eight apart from the other competition: the fact that the Pedal for Pets RAAM team is comprised of all women.
“We are the fourth all-female team in the 35-year history of the RAAM. So it’s kind of a big deal that we are doing this race,” Sandy notes. “We are all wives, mothers and have serious full-time jobs. We are fitting this race into our lives, because we believe in being engaged in our community and raising awareness for this phenomenal cause.”
For those who’d like to get involved with Pedal for Pets, Wendy says, “There aren’t really volunteer opportunities where people can physically go and trap animals and take them to the vet for their operations. But you can help us raise money. Pedal for Pets is a channel for that. And the RAAM is a channel for that.”
“A lot of people have a passion to help animals, but they don’t know what to do,” Sandy adds. “So Wendy and Pedal for Pets provide a way for funds and resources to go to the people who have the time and can be the feet on the ground to do the work.”
As the Pedal for Pets team trains for their June 18th event, they remain focused on the goal: to be the fastest and most competitive women’s group to date. Of that goal, Wendy says, “Women are quick to say, ‘I could never. I’m just too busy.’ But we are all busy. We will always be busy. Don’t let that hold you back from doing something that can make a difference.”
For more information about Pedal for Pets and the RAAM team, visit www.pedalforpets.org.