Jul. 19, 2014 @ 09:27 PM

It was eight years ago when Habitat for Humanity decided to change the equation for how to hold a fundraiser.

It stuck to something fairly normal — a bicycle ride throughout the city, but instead of holding it in the morning, it went out on a limb and held it at night and offered free food and beer for those who registered.

The nighttime ride was a big draw for Sharon Johnson and Melva Peed.

Both women have been involved with Habitat for a few years, working on building houses. Johnson enjoys being able to help build Habitat houses because of the connections she makes not only with the fellow volunteers, but the families that will eventually live in the houses.

“The families are engaged too,” Johnson said. Hearing the stories from each family helps her realize that the work she’s doing can be a big part of the community. Saturday was Johnson’s first time participating in the ride, but Peed had been on it last year.

Peed said being able to participate in the ride last year was amazing because she was able to see another side of Durham she hadn’t seen before. It also allowed her to enjoy the ride.

“It’s not for competition, it’s strictly for enjoyment,” she said.

Two years ago Habitat decided to add another element to the fundraiser — running. Since that addition, attendance has skyrocketed.

“In 2012, the last year it was a bicycle ride, there would generally be about 400 cyclists out,” Tammy Dorfman, the events coordinator for Habitat, said. “It exploded when they added the run to about 1,100.”

By adding the chance for someone to either run, walk, jog — or a combination of the three — allowed for more participation not only from individuals, but from families, Dorfman said.

“It was something for everyone,” she said. “It became a real family friendly event.”

It also helps that the Habitat Bull Moon Ride and Run has its own flair about it.

Participants are encouraged to dress up and come equipped with glow sticks or LED lights. Participants are clad in bright colors and many adorn their helmets with glow sticks as decorations.

“It’s a great party,” she said. It’s not just any party though. It’s a party that raises money to help Durham family purchase houses.

“It’s one of our biggest ones, outside of our annual foundation breakfast,” Dorfman said. “(It’s) by far the one with the most participants.”

She said about 1,200 participants were signed up, with an even split between bikers and runners. About 80 of those participants were under the age of 14.

Noah Tomczak is one of those young riders. He has come out for three years riding with his father, Dan.

Dan Tomczak has been riding in the Bull Moon Ride and Run for four years. His first year, a co-worker got him involved, and after that he started bringing his family along.

“The fact that the bike ride is at night is a cool thing that they came up with doing,” Dan Tomczak said. He said being able to explore downtown Durham at night with all of the lights and all of the other riders was another big draw. Now he makes it an annual event with the entire family, even though his two younger sons and his wife aren’t riding or walking in it.

“They’re here for moral support,” he said. “It’s a fun event, and Habitat is a good cause … and having a nighttime ride just adds to it.”

His wife Deb describes Noah and Dan as “avid bikers”

“They make it 12 miles, and they love it,” Deb Tomczak said. “We are excited to be apart of something that helps people, and that is what it’s all about, helping people. It’s such a great way to show as a family what you can do for a community.”

Deb Tomczak also said it was a great way to show her sons the importance of volunteering at a young age.

For Noah, it also gets him to see parts of the city he’s not accustomed to.

“I get to pass all sorts of places that are big and awesome that I’ve never seen before, kind of like Duke University,” Noah Tomczak said.

“We’ll end up raising enough money here to build another home in Durham, and help a family purchase a home in Durham,” Dorfman said.

Through fundraisers like the Bull Moon Ride and Run Habitat for Humanity has been able to either build or help families purchase more than 300 homes.

“One of our big messages that we try to help people understand … is that Habitat gives people a hand up (in homeownership),” Dorfman said.

It also gives residents and volunteers the chance to showcase the Durham.

“(The event) highlights Durham and what it’s doing, and it highlights what Habitat is doing,” Dorfman said. “It celebrates Durham building Durham.”

The Tomczak family agrees with that sentiment.

“(It’s a) great way to show Durham in the best possible light,” Deb Tomczak said. “Durham is an up and coming city that has so much potential … And it shows what a great city Durham is.”