Kevin Riordan: In Haddon Heights, they hop on their bicycles for some fun and a good cause

Posted: October 17, 2012

The front lawn of Dave Sulock's house in Haddon Heights was looking like a Halloween-theme bicycle showroom. But the real fun was out back.

Upward of 100 cyclists, a few walkers, and even a driver or two partied there under the stars as they kicked off the third annual "Tour de Heights."

By the time the 2012 tour finally wound down early Sunday, some in the crowd had cycled onward to three more backyard bashes within a few blocks of each other on the east side of the White Horse Pike.

Imagine a progressive, four-course al fresco feast with friends, featuring yellow jerseys for winners of what could only be loosely described as a bike race, and proceeds for charity. That's Tour de Heights.

"It's great to hang out for a good cause and not have to leave town," says Sulock. "Besides," chief tour-ist Pat Warren adds, "a lot of people like to show off their backyards."

Last year, the tour raised about $500 for the Haddon Heights Good Neighbors organization, which provides emergency cash assistance to needy borough residents.

"I really do think people in Haddon Heights like the idea of helping," says Cynthia Vena, the organization's president and a borough resident for three decades.

The tour, she adds, "sounds like a ball."

The final tally from Saturday night's festivities was still being awaited Monday.

"We've got 15 couples who are still bringing us money," says Tricia Campbell, whose Fourth Avenue house was the final stop, beginning around 10 p.m.

She describes the tour as typical of the youth sports, fund-raisers, and block parties that fill the lives of many thirty- and forty-something parents in the leafy Camden County borough.

Except this event was for the grown-ups.

Participants paid $15 each, and the four hosting households covered their individual food and beverage expenses. Many people made additional donations as well.

"This is my first time," says Glenn Sirman, 49, who owns a Center City hair salon.

He likes that the tour is "local" and not a commercial undertaking.

"There are no [promotional] banners flying," Sirman says. "It's unique."

Warren explains that he got the idea from a Christmas party in 2009.

"My wife, Laura, and I had to park three blocks away, and we only live five blocks away. And I thought, 'We could probably ride bikes to parties in Haddon Heights and be a little green about it.' "

Sulock, his friend and coworker at a Cherry Hill environmental services firm, wasn't sold on the tour idea at first.

"I didn't think it would be much fun," he says as folks cluster around the food, the brew, and the convivial crackle of the fire pit.

"Now I think it's a really great idea," he adds. "You host a lot of people, but not for long. And we take the leftover food to the next house in a minivan."

At that next house, Charlie and Kathy Sullivan have things under control.

"I made chili for 80," Kathy says. "I made 75 burgers."

I've arrived in advance of the crowd so I can get a sense of what it's like to have 100 people drop by at once.

"You get very nervous," says Charlie Sullivan, who's busy grilling sliders.

"The borough yard sale was today, our son is playing baseball right now, it's been a crazy day," Kathy says. "But this is fun."

Says Campbell: "We do this because everybody has a good time. And it's important to have a connection with people who live around the corner but you might not know."

I agree.

Why spend time with virtual "social media" friends when you can share food, drink, and vibes with actual human beings?


Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845 or kriordan@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @inqkriordan. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at www.phillynews.com/blinq.


 

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