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Rained-out Freedom from Poverty event became an intimate community celebration

Above: Singer/songwriter Shawn Mullins played for about 100 volunteers after a rain-out of the Freedom From Poverty Community Celebration.

See photo gallery here.

They’d ridden 2,000 miles, crossed the Rocky Mountains, rolled through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The Cycling for Change team had climbed some of the toughest
mountain passes in the U.S. spreading its message along the way: Poverty in the
U.S. is out of control and it is time to do something about it.

The team hit northwest Colorado earlier this week. On Thursday it pedaled toward Colorado Springs and was stopped cold by a torrential downpour.

The rain caused the cancelation of the Freedom from Poverty Community event where the riders were to be welcomed by the citizens of Colorado Springs. But it didn’t stop the
celebration. The celebration rocked.

The nonprofit Kids on Bikes kicked it all off at 1 p.m. and delivered several new bikes to under-privileged kids in the community.

And the sky opened up and the rain came down.

Rochelle Blaschke Schlortt, director of communications for Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs, which hosted the event, could only smile as the rain dripped
from her hair.

“We did the best we could,” she said. “We put together a great event, but you can’t do anything about the rain.”

And then a little magic began to happen.

As people scrambled to break down their tents, plans were being made to continue a small impromptu party at the the Marian House. Recording artists Shawn Mullins, who
was to have played at America the Beautiful Park, agreed to do a set for about
100 event volunteers and the Cycling for Change team.

Allen Beauchamp, local cycling advocate who had worked tirelessly for months to make the event happen, smiled and remained upbeat as volunteers arrived for pizza,
beer and music.

“It’s working out exactly the way it’s supposed to,” Beauchamp said. “I think we’ve had a great event.”

Mullins arrived and mingled with the crowd. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt, he talked with everyone and then sat down to play his music.

He finished with his 1998 hit “Lullaby,” as the crowd helped out on the chorus.

“Everything’s gonna be alright, rockabye.”

Mullins said he was happy to play in a Colorado Springs soup kitchen.

“I was psyched to be a part of it,” he said. “I know a lot of people worked hard to make it happen outside at the park, but I’m kind of glad it worked out like
this. I used to do this a lot. I played at a soup kitchen in Atlanta called the
Open Door Community. I get a lot out of it. It’s like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger,
even Dylan, would play in places like this. I just consider it as passing it

Jason Christensen, CEO of Catholic Charities in Colorado Springs, is riding with the Cycling for Change team.

“We’ve asked people along the way to get involved, whether it’s through Catholic Charities or the local food pantry, to help end the economic injustices in this society.”

He said his body feels good after 2,000 miles – with 3,000 to go. He was happy to be home with his friends and family, but his voice rang with excitement about the trip
and the people he has met.

“I met a guy in Seattle, he had lived for 15 years on the street,” Christensen said. “But he talked about buying a bistro, and he had the wherewithal to do it,” Christensen
said. “There are so many like him who, when given a chance, can find success.”

He said people along the route are hearing the message about poverty. They are taking action.

“There are so many quiet heroes out there doing the work,” he said.

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