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Basketball legend Bill Walton rides into Point Loma while raising $100,000 for COVID-19 causes

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Former NBA star Bill Walton rides his bike during the Bike for Humanity on April 25.
(Sandy Huffaker)

The inaugural Bike for Humanity event involved more than 1,500 remote participants, including former Padre Trevor Hoffman.

Putting his star power to the pedal, basketball and local legend Bill Walton helped corral $100,000 in charitable contributions during his inaugural Bike for Humanity event.

The separate-but-together riding event, held April 25, was organized by Walton and his longtime friend Tony Finn of Events.com. The pair, both professionally sidelined because of stay-at-home orders, teamed up recently to channel their frustrations into something positive for those directly affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“We were talking and we said, ‘We’ve got to do something. We can’t just be bummed and let coronavirus take over the world. ... Let’s try to spread some joy,’” Finn said.

Walton, a Hillcrest resident, started his hours-long solo trek downtown in front of the San Diego County Administration Building, where he said his dad worked for 37 years as a county employee. The retired NBA star and self-described joy rider said he ventured around Harbor Island, Shelter Island, Liberty Station and Point Loma.

Meanwhile, Finn, an Encinitas resident, said he rode leisurely alongside his wife and daughter in North County coastal areas.

The idea behind the event was to promote health, hope, community and service. Folks near and far were encouraged to put on their helmets and bike in their neighborhoods (or at home on stationary bikes) for two hours, from 9 to 11 a.m. Donations were invited but not required.

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Former NBA star Bill Walton rides his bike during the Bike for Humanity event April 25.
(Sandy Huffaker)

In total, about 1,500 people registered to participate in the ride, collectively raising $100,000, Finn said. Some of Walton’s celebrity friends, including Trevor Hoffman of San Diego Padres fame, took to the streets to show their support.

Because of the event’s success, Walton and Finn anticipate holding similar Bike for Humanity rides in the weeks and months ahead.

“We’re going to do this again ... we’re saving lives,” Finn said. “We’re going to give a significant amount of money to buy personal protective equipment for nurses and doctors and food for starving Americans. We’re excited to keep going.”

Net proceeds from the event will go to four causes: Feeding America, Father Joe’s Villages, Champions for Health aiding front-line responders and Get Us PPE, which provides heath care providers with personal protection equipment.

“I had my favorite kind of bike ride. It was a day of celebration, of life, but also a day of reflection,” Walton said in a post-ride interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“I rode along the waterfront and ... I just kept thinking of how many people have sacrificed for me so that I could have the greatest life ever. And then there’s all these people who are suffering and struggling so much today with COVID-19. So it was a spectacular day to ride your bike and a spectacular day for sober energy.”


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