TUPELO • Over 75 racers took off Saturday morning for the third annual Tour de Life cycling event in Fairpark, hosted by the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency and North Mississippi Medical Center in order to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation.

This is the first year the event has been in Tupelo. The past two years, the ride has been on the Tanglefoot Trail in Pontotoc.

“We thought that [moving the event] would reach out to a bigger group of cyclists in Tupelo,” said Susan Bonds, the community outreach coordinator for MORA.

Cyclists came out before 8 a.m. to register for the race and line up as they prepared for one of three route options.The longest route, the Metric Century, was 62 miles, while the Half Century was 32 miles. There was also an 11-mile route.

There were four rests in the towns of Saltillo, Guntown, Pratts, and Eggville. Each rest stop was themed and provided refreshments to riders.

The event opened to Jeff Bonds, the safety director of North Mississippi Medical Center, thanking his wife for organizing the event. He was followed by Chuck Stinston, the director of community services and relations for MORA, who shared that over 1,500 Mississippians need a donor and that every 20 minutes, some dies needing an organ donation. He reminded cyclists that the race honored both those who donate and those in need of donations.

“We thank you for this ride to support organ donation,” Stinson said.

There was a moment of silence, after which cyclists participated in a balloon release to honor organ donors. After the national anthem and prayer, Tupelo Police gave the cyclists an escort out of city limits at 8:05 a.m.

For cyclists like Mark Shephard, who is part of a larger group of cyclists who ride on Saturdays, this event provided an opportunity to participate in a good cause and get the extra perks the sponsored ride provides.

“We all have the potential to be donors one day,” said Shephard.

Sponsors for the event included BancorpSouth, Orthopaedic Institute of North Mississippi, Maloney Glass and Overhead Door, The Transplant Pharmacy, Core Cycle and Outdoor, Morrison Healthcare, Trail Treads and Prairie Farms.

The Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau also partnered with the event to create a donation video for social media and provide a “Riders Perk” package from participating Tupelo restaurants, attractions, and businesses.

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