Reel Housewives of Topsail Island celebrates 10 years of its fundraising bike ride to help local breast cancer survivors.
One afternoon 10 years ago Annette Cox-Enry and her gal pals in Topsail Island were gathered at their go-to hangout, Sears Landing Grill and Boat Docs, for fellowship and fun when Cox-Enry announced, “I think I’m going to ride my bicycle the length of the island.” Though she’s lived in Topsail since the 1960s, she’d never before made the 26.2-mile trip. Her friends encouraged her and even decided to take on the challenge alongside her.
Cox-Enry and her friends had talked previously about wanting to do something for a purpose, specifically to help breast cancer patients and survivors. The bicycle ride quickl went from a personal bucket list item to a fundraiser project.
“God laid it on my heart,” Cox-Enry says. “I don’t have breast cancer in my family. I’ve never known anybody personally that had breast cancer. But I realized that this bike ride was going to be the start of a foundation.”
Starting a nonprofit isn’t easy or free, and Cox-Enry knew that going in. She says she prayed about it, and one day Dan Rizzo, an attorney who lives in Surf City, called to tell her he’d heard about her vision and offered to do the legal work for free. Reel Housewives of Topsail Island, or RHOTI, was formed.
“I recruited some other wonderful board members: Debbie Pekofsky, Susan Billet, Renee Rhodes, Nealie Williams, Kelly DeRose and Stacie Justice. They’ve been rock stars,” Cox-Enry says.
Cancer survivors can face significant financial hardships, particularly those who are enrolled in high deductible health insurance plans or who don’t have health savings accounts. Recognizing this, RHOTI ensures that all the proceeds raised from their annual April bike ride go to local cancer survivors.
The inaugural ride took place in 2010 with 42 riders — both men and women — and raised nearly $3,000. The proceeds were used to help a local woman who had recently had a double mastectomy pay her bills, which had been turned over to collection agencies. The 2019 event attracted 716 registered riders from all over the East Coast, including Florida, Charleston and Virginia, and raised more than $130,000.
To date RHOTI has helped more than 300 breast cancer survivors in the community. They have paid cancer patients’ bills, saved homes from foreclosure, paid for nipple tattoos, paid rent, purchased Christmas gifts for women and children affected by the disease, and purchased a prosthesis for a woman in need.
“We’ve been able to work with the local hospital in negotiating patients’ bills so that we can more easily pay them,” Cox-Enry says.
The 2020 bike ride is set for Saturday, April 25. The 26.2-mile route starts and finishes at Soundside Park in Surf City. The ride is an opportunity to experience the scenic pleasures of Topsail Island, make new friends, reconnect with old friends and support a great cause. Along the way riders are treated to water stops and fruit stands. At the finish there is lunch for all the participants, live and silent auctions and music from the Fryd on the Boat band, which includes Cox-Enry’s husband and board member Debbie Pekofsky’s husband. “We call them our Reel House Band. They volunteer to play every year,” Cox-Enry says.
The RHOTI bike ride is not a race. There are no winners or losers. It’s open to riders of all ages. “Kana, my 10-year-old granddaughter, rides,” Cox-Enry says. “Hopefully she’ll take over my board spot one day!” Kana even encouraged her math teacher to participate one year. “She taught her math while they rode together,” Cox-Enry says.
The community comes together to support the annual fundraising bike ride. Local boutiques donate items for the silent auction, local artists donate works to the live auction and restaurants give discounts for riders and volunteers. The police EMS and fire departments work hand in hand with the event coordinators in preparation and during the event.
In turn, the bike ride supports the community during the off-season. “People come from other cities and other states to participate, and they rent homes and hotel rooms,” Cox-Enry explains. “They eat in our local restaurants, shop in our stores. The whole community benefits.”
You don’t have to join the bike ride to get involved with RHOTI. The annual event requires a lot of volunteers and support to make it a success. From rest stops to registration and everything in between, groups and individuals can volunteer for a number of positions. Cox-Enry’s entire family gives their time. “My son Kane and his friends Joe, Jesse and Adam handle all the logistics. They even do minor bike repairs if needed during the ride,” Cox-Enry says.
Of course, individuals and groups can contribute financially by becoming sponsors. No matter the level of participation and support, the community can make a major difference to the women and their families in the community battling breast cancer. “I can’t emphasize enough that without the help of our wonderful community, board members and God, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” Cox-Enry says.
Reel Housewives of Topsail Island Bike Ride
April 25, 2020
Soundside Park, 517 Roland Avenue, Surf City
EDITOR’S NOTE: This event has been postponed. Visit their website or Facebook page for updates.
Photography by Megan Deitz & Unique Media & Design