CARROLLTON – Nearly 30 years ago, children at First Baptist Church in The Fields began riding in circles once a year to raise money for Christian missions through Texas Baptist Men. A new generation is keeping the practice alive and recently raised $2,801 in one night for TBM disaster relief.
At the annual Wheel-a-Thon in Carrollton, children receive pledges for laps they make in a church parking lot. Eight laps equal one mile. Participants can ride anything with wheels – bicycles, inline skates, scooters – or they can walk.
More than 35 children took part this year, with one boy completing 62 laps on a bicycle in 50 minutes, said Mark Forester, director of the church’s Royal Ambassadors.
RAs is a missionary discipleship organization for boys in grades 1-6. It promotes growth by developing biblical character in all aspects of life. RA leaders use activities to help boys learn about God’s mission and understand how they are a part of it.
The Wheel-a-Thon wasn’t just about raising money, Forester said.
“It gets the kids thinking about something else outside of themselves… about helping other people in Jesus’ name,” he said.
Savion Lee, TBM state RA coordinator, said the Carrollton event “is special because it connects the RAs to their local church body.” It helps church members learn more about RAs and the group’s mission involvement.
Lee and Ryan Lenamon, TPM director of donor relations, spoke to the children the following week about TPM’s various ministries to help those in need and share the good news of hope through Christ.
“Discipleship events like this are crucial for our youth,” said Lenamon. “These are the future leaders of our country and our world. Discipleship is important. If discipleship doesn’t come from the church, it comes from somewhere else.”
Sign up for our weekly edition and receive all our headlines in your inbox on Thursday
Long history of mission support
Forester started the Wheel-a-Thon in 1993 when one of the RA leaders, the son-in-law of then TPM director Bob Dixon, recommended that the money raised be used for TPM disaster relief.
After the event, Dixon attended an RA chapter meeting to receive a cardboard check representing the amount raised. The church has held the event every year since then, except for 2020 during the COVID pandemic.
The Wheel-a-Thon used to be exclusive to boys in RAs. Since moving to a new church location in 2019, Girls in Action members have been participating, and the younger boys and girls from Mission Friends have been participating this year. One of the Mission Friends guys raised $500 for charity, Forester said.
The RA and GA leaders also added some competition to the mix this year. Lainie Applegate, the GA director, got a pie in the face on November 9 because the boys outnumbered the girls by $100.
“I am so grateful that our boys and girls have been given the opportunity to learn about TPM and how to support their mission efforts,” said Applegate. “I love teaching kids that working hard and serving others can be fun.”
As for the RAs, a team of several men runs the Carrollton group, Forester said. He noted that “things have changed with RAs” over the years.
“You have to adapt,” he said. The boys don’t like the book work anymore, because they do book work all day.
Instead, the RAs focus on activities such as campcraft and archery.
“There’s a spiritual application to everything we do, and that’s what the guys remember” — application coupled with activities, he said.