By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
GREEN BAY – On Saturday, Dec. 10, dozens of cyclists dressed in their best holiday attire will take to the streets of downtown Green Bay for the sixth annual Santa Cycle bike ride, which raises money for Children’s Wisconsin.
Chris Roth, who started the Santa Cycle ride back in 2017, along with Shawn Hauser and Noah Kellerman, said the sentiment behind the ride actually began many years earlier.
“I’ve always done charitable work for Children’s Wisconsin, and that dates back to when I began my career,” he said. “I was in La Crosse working for a TV station there and we hosted a thing called the Children’s Miracle Network telethon, which was a national telethon for children’s hospitals. We had a hospital in La Crosse that was affiliated with the Children’s Miracle Network and I started hosting the telethon and I would do feature stories on families and things like that.”
Although Roth’s career took him out of La Crosse, he said his involvement didn’t end there.
“I moved to Milwaukee and worked at WISN TV and they, too, were affiliated with the telethon,” he said. “They were a host station for this telethon, but the hospital Milwaukee connected to the telethon was Children’s Wisconsin. So we would host the telethon from the actual hospital there, just outside of Milwaukee in Wauwatosa, and so that’s where my connection to Children’s Wisconsin began.”
When Roth made the move up to Green Bay, where he now works for WBAY TV, he said he had many opportunities to continue raising money and awareness for Children’s Wisconsin.
“When I moved up here, folks that I had worked with at the hospital asked me to emcee some of their fundraising functions and charity events here,” he said. “So I was involved with the golf outing that benefited the hospital every year at Butte des Morts Country Club.”
Continuing to support Children’s Wisconsin, Roth said, was important to him because anyone could wind up needing the hospital’s services at any time.
“I would always tell people at these events, ‘listen, donate your money, donate whatever you can to help this resource because you never know when you might need it,’” he said. “You don’t know if your kids will ever need the services of Children’s Wisconsin.”
That sentiment turned out to be all too true for Roth, whose own daughter would end up needing services from Children’s Wisconsin.
“I would say this before I was married and before I had kids and then low and behold, I got married and had kids,” he said. “And my oldest daughter — who was six at the time — went through Children’s Hospital. So it turned out to be rather prophetic for me. So now I have a personal connection, like so many others do.”
Personal connections to a child who has been through Children’s Hospital, Roth said, are more common than you would think — it’s like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game.
“[Starting from any celebrity,] you can find somebody who’s been in a movie with Kevin Bacon and all it takes is six connections to get there,” he said. “I challenge people all the time that you cannot go six degrees of people [starting from yourself] without finding somebody that has had a connection with this hospital. I mean, we have people in our newsroom — two infants have already been through Children’s Wisconsin and my child has gone through there. It’s just hard to find someone that doesn’t have a connection to this place, which is why we want to support it.”
And since 2017, Santa Cycle has been Roth’s avenue to raise that support.
The ride, which is roughly seven miles long, starts and ends at Badger State Brewing.
Registration is $40 and can be done from the Santa Cycle – Green Bay Facebook page.
Following the ride, a drawing will be held to give away three fat bikes — one from each of Santa Cycle’s sponsors, Pete’s Garage, Broken Spoke and Stadium Bike. Tickets to enter the drawing can be purchased by participants and non-participants alike and winners do not need to be present to claim their prize (but do need to be able to pick it up locally).
All proceeds benefit Children’s Wisconsin, and Roth said he hopes changes to how the event is run will make this year’s fundraising more successful than ever.
“In 2019, we had generated three years of momentum and had our best fundraising year to date,” he said. “We couldn’t do it in 2020 because of the pandemic. We used to do the drawing for the bikes and you had to be there in person to buy the tickets so it was really only available to those people that were in attendance. But in 2020, we couldn’t get everybody together. So the day of what was supposed to be the ride, we did a live drawing on Facebook for one bike and we sold over $7,000 in tickets that day. So now we’ve opened it so you don’t have to be present to win. You can buy your tickets online and if you win, all you have to do is figure out a way to pick up the bike.”
Roth said that, while he’d like to see the ride grow to the size of something like the Santa Rampage ride in Milwaukee, the support for Children’s Wisconsin is more important than the number of riders or the size of the event.
“I’d like to say ‘boy, wouldn’t it be great if we had 200 riders or 300 riders,’” he said, “but that’s not because we want to be like ‘oh, look at us, we did this.’ It just means more people are helping and more people are donating. That’s what the goal is — to raise as much money and awareness for the hospital. For me, if the people come, have a good time, feel good about what they’re doing and they come back, that to me is success.”