On July 15, two cyclists affiliated with Sea to Sea were hit by a motor vehicle while on a training ride for the cross-continent bike tour. Sea to Sea is a fund-raising organization born out of the Christian Reformed Church and dedicated to reducing poverty. Clarence Doornbos, age 76, a member of LaGrave Avenue CRC, died from the impact. Claire Elgersma, a 69-year-old member of Church of the Servant CRC, was admitted to hospital with resulting injuries and is now recovering at home.
“I am retired now, but I completed three of four tours with Sea to Sea,” said Elgersma, a former chairman of the Sea to Sea steering committee. “Clare was passionate about everything he did—the cause, music, and training. I am thankful that I received only some injuries from the accident.”
Doornbos, in addition to being a poverty advocate, was also a retired music teacher from Grand Rapids Christian School. His wife, Jan Doornbos, was also supportive of the Sea to Sea cause; both were scheduled to participate in a later portion of this year’s six-leg tour across North America. Doornbos had been with Sea to Sea since 2008.
Terry Barnes, director of Sea to Sea, said the organization marked Doornbos’ death while continuing to ride for the cause. “We [recognized] the first 20 kilometers of our ride for Clare’s death,” he said. “We had a prayer in remembrance of him before we took off. I think many riders are processing it on their own. It’s one of those things where we are surprised and we mourn his loss.”
Doornbos was a safe rider. He was riding on the right side of the road and was following cycling safety conduct. He was wearing bright clothing and had lights added to his bicycle. The collision, which happened in Gaines Township, Mich., was reported to be under investigation; whether the 83-year-old driver who struck the two riders would face any charges has not been released.
Sea to Sea has been operating a cross-continent ride since 2005. In that year a rider from Kingston, Ont., was injured during a training ride and still lives with paralysis.
“I think the important thing for us is that Clare’s accident highlights the fact that the riders on Sea to Sea put everything on the line to impact those in need and raise funds for the poor,” said Barnes. “[They do this] for people they don’t know and will never meet. They risk their physical health, their finances, their time, they give all these things for someone else because they are Christians and believe it is part of their work to help those more unfortunate than themselves.”
Elgersma will continue to heal from her injuries, and the Sea to Sea tour will continue to raise funds and advocate for poverty elimination worldwide. On July 17 Sea to Sea riders observed a day of silence for their friend and planned a memorial service at the end of their riding day. A funeral service for Doornbos will be held at LaGrave Avenue CRC on Thursday July 20.