Jeff Zaugg was never much of a cyclist. When he participated in triathlons, he only trained for the running and swimming portions and borrowed a bike the day of the event. Yet, Zaugg is now preparing to go on a series of 100-mile bike rides for the fourth year in a row as the organizer of the Fathers For The Fatherless fundraising rides.
Fathers For The Fatherless hosts rides across the country in late summer and throughout the fall in which groups of men bike 100 miles to raise money to combat fatherlessness worldwide. The rides are, as the website says, “in response to our Heavenly Father’s heart for the fatherless.”
Fathers For The Fatherless is the missional arm of dadAWESOME, a Christian ministry Zaugg launched in January 2018 with the goal of helping men become better fathers and husbands. He found that not everyone was receptive to the resources he provided and started thinking about other ways to connect with fathers.
“The idea actually came from almost a frustration,” Zaugg said in a recent interview with Sports Spectrum. “I was trying to help equip dads — intentional, Christian dads — with resources to continue to disciple their kids, love their kids well, love the role of being a dad. And what I found was … there was a lot of guys who would not say ‘yes’ to self-help learning about intentional fatherhood.”
He figured men would be drawn to the idea of helping the fatherless while improving their own personal fitness, and he decided to give it a shot. The first Fathers For The Fatherless ride took place in June 2019. The 27 men who participated raised almost $27,000.
Three years later, Zaugg has taken part in all nine Fathers For The Fatherless rides and is in the process of adding other types of athletic challenges, like runs and spartan obstacle courses, to the Fathers For The Fatherless schedule. His hope is that doing something so physically demanding will help foster friendships and teach lessons that translate to everyday life.
“As a culture, I think we’re all gravitating toward easy,” Zaugg told Sports Spectrum. “We’re all moving toward comfort. And we need churches, need teams of men, who intentionally move toward hard. Families need dads and husbands who do hard things intentionally. It’s good for the soul, and it breaks the drift toward apathy.”
The bike rides are open to all men and no previous cycling experience is necessary. Fathers For The Fatherless provides participants with information and resources as they train for the race. In training rides, bikers are split into groups of roughly 10 men who prepare together.
Participation in the events tripled in the first three years thanks largely to partnerships with churches and nonprofit organizations.
“In the men’s ministry world, there’s not that many opportunities for a church to partner with a one-time event that engages men around mission, and in small groups,” Zaugg said.
The money raised is divided evenly between local organizations and Venture, a Christian nonprofit that works against injustices, including fatherlessness, in some of the most under-served areas of the world.
Zaugg knows the impact of the bike rides extends well beyond the money raised. He’s seen marriages saved, lifelong friendships formed and Christ exalted as men around the country sacrificially serve those without earthly fathers.
The 2022 rides begin on Aug. 27 in Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Michael, Minnesota. Every other ride is still open for registration. Anyone interested in learning more about Fathers For The Fatherless can reach out on the program’s website.