Riding high


Queenstown, New Zealand

A charity ride around Queenstown has raised more than $NZ103,000 for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

Our church leaders used the ride as a platform to push the idea that the health message is more than just a token message to be shared or preached once a year. It’s a lifestyle.

More than 50 people took part in the 290km ride around “the adventure capital of the world” from March 8 to 10—a major uptick from the 18 riders who participated in the 25,000 Spins event in 2014.

“It was brilliant,” said ADRA New Zealand CEO Matthew Siliga. “Great scenery, great cause, great camaraderie and just a great time overall.”


This year’s ride around Queenstown really was a “classic”.

Unlike last year’s inaugural Queenstown Classic, this year’s crop of cyclists was made up primarily of “novice” riders. Among them were Sanitarium employees, school principals and pastors. Mr Siliga said there was also “great buy in” from the Church’s two New Zealand conferences. 

“Our church leaders used the ride as a platform to push the idea that the health message is more than just a token message to be shared or preached once a year,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle.”

New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC) Health director Adrielle Carrasco took this idea to another level by turning the Queenstown Classic into a “Biggest Loser” competition, with nine ministers taking part.

Wellington Adventist Church pastor Toa Lutu was named winner of the competition after losing more than 14kg while training for the ride. Coming into the New Year at 131kg, Pastor Lutu said he was “shocked to see the scale drop below 119” at the post-ride weigh in.

“I weighed myself again on a different set of scales just to make sure,” he says with a laugh. “We all needed to double check!”

Pastor Toa Lutu with his Biggest Loser trophy.

The Tongan pastor also lost a couple of other things in the lead up to the event—his hair and iconic goatee, which he voluntarily shaved as part of his $5000 fundraising effort.

Pastor’s Lutu’s “mission” to lose weight and raise money for ADRA was featured in the local newspaper in Horowhenua, where he served as pastor of Levin Adventist Church before his recent move to Wellington.

Even the mayor of Levin took notice. “When he saw me he asked me, ‘Where is your twin brother?’” recalls Pastor Lutu.

Mrs Carrasco, who took part in the “very challenging” but “worthwhile” ride herself, said all of the Biggest Loser participants did extremely well, and that their efforts have “already inspired other church pastors to take part in next year’s event”.

NEWSWORTHY: Pastor Lutu’s weight loss/fundraising “mission” was featured in the Horowhenua Chronicle in February.

The Queenstown Classic was the second 25,000 Spins event to take place this year. In February, 65 riders completed the annual Great Ocean Road Challenge in Victoria, raising more than $A120,000 for charity organisations including ADRA Australia, Botswana Orphan Project, Fred Hollows Foundation and Compassion Australia.

The three-day, 300km ride from Geelong to Warnambool also pushed 25,000 Spins’ total fundraising effort—since its humble beginnings in 2009—to more than $1 million.

Aside from Australia and New Zealand, two annual rides are also held in Europe—a cycle from London to Paris as well as a “Swiss Adventure”. 

25,000 Spins founder Craig Shipton began organising these “adventures with heart” after discovering 25,000 children died every day from conditions that could be cured. More recent statistics indicate that number could be as high as 29,000 children per day.

“Organising these cycling events is my way of using my skills and interests to make the world a better place,” said Mr Shipton. “To see a rider achieve a physical goal they didn’t believe they could make and as a group raising a lot of money for people in need is a fun and rewarding experience.”

RIDING HIGH: It’s been a successful six years for 25,000 Spins. [Photo courtesy: Michelle Abel]

Mr Shipton said a fifth ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles is currently being developed, and could take place as early as September this year.

Registration is already open for next year’s Great Ocean Road and Queenstown Classic events. Visit <www.25000spins.com> to sign up and learn more.