By Kaitlin Rogers and Ben Bourne, RIDETZ Rider
On this wonderful Wednesday, you get to meet another wonderful rider. Through Meghann, I have been lucky to get to know Ben well over the past year and a half. He is the kind of person who makes just any experience better. He is a blast to be around and making sure everyone is having a good time is always his top priority. He also has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. His generosity never ceases to amaze me. We are so fortunate that Ben is joining us for the 2012 RIDETZ experience. Enjoy his thoughtful responses and make sure you read all the way through… there is a surprise at the end that will blow you away!
1) Where are you from?
I was originally born in Florida, but our family moved to Charlotte when I was three years old, so the times growing up in Charlotte and seeing the city transform so dramatically over the years has been a wonderful thing to experience. Although I travel quite a bit and have lived in many other places in my years, it will always be a special feeling to come back “home”.
2) What do you do for work?
I have been an entrepreneur at heart ever since I can remember. Around 2000, I moved back to South Florida to start a real estate firm at the age of 22 that designed, built, and redeveloped townhomes, condos, and estate homes throughout Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Palm Beach. I have invested in specialty pharmaceutical, medical device, biotechnology and service segments of the healthcare arena for over 12 years. I also have several holding companies that have interests in everything from large private equity funds throughout the US and Europe to nightclubs to a full line of award winning Sake and liquors, TY KU.
To put it simply, I really enjoy starting or buying/investing in businesses with family and close friends and helping them reach their full potential. I love seeing them become what we all had dreamed they could be. Working in such a diverse arena enables me to meet people of all walks of life from around the world, many who have become dear, dear friends.
3) What do you like to do on your spare time?
I love to travel. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to experience mission trips to Guatemala City, Guatemala and Madras, India. Having the opportunity to help the orphaned and hurting children of Mexico and Brazil brought me to my knees. I had never seen the pain that existed throughout the world, and to see it at such a young age helped mold me and pushes me to become more involved and to appreciate the multitude of blessings we are afforded here in the US.
I also enjoy tennis, skiing, golf (although my game has a mind of its own some days), deep sea fishing for some underwater beasts (Marlin/Sailfish ideally) and sweating it out in the gym when I can forget the worries of the day and just push myself as hard as possible.
I am happiest when I can wake to the sound of crashing waves and the smell of the ocean. The Italian coast, the Greek Isles, St. Barts, seem to me as close to heaven as there is.
4) Who is your inspiration in life?
There are several people who have helped shape me as a person. My parents were separated when I was still at a young age and I chose to live with my father. He helped me through many ups and downs as the years went on, and showed me the value of how blessed I was, the countless opportunities I was given. He taught me the humble satisfaction to never forget those without the same opportunities and to help give them the ability and chance to succeed against what sometimes may seem to be unconquerable odds. My mother is also a dear person in my life with a kind and caring heart.
Me with my dad
My older brother is one of the most passionate and loving brothers one could ask for, as has one of the best business minds I know. He has always lifted me up when I’ve been down, always been someone I could battle the world against. He has always had my back no matter what. He has a wonderful wife and two gorgeous and loving children. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have them in my life.
Me with my niece and nephew, Fairbanks and Mary Pope
5) How did you hear about RIDETZ?
My family has known Meghann Gunderman, The Foundation For Tomorrow’s Founder, for many years. When she first approached us with her idea of starting a new foundation, we fell in love with her undying passion for helping build a system in Tanzania to help empower these beautiful kids. We decided as a family to help her build the program, if even in the littlest ways.
This past February, after many years of wanting to see her work firsthand, I embarked on what turned out to be the most special trip of my lifetime. There are no words to describe the joy I felt as I first embraced the children I had heard so much about over the years. It was amazing to be surrounded by their unconditional love and the most stunning and beautiful smiles I have ever seen. It was a special thing to meet children we have sponsored over the years for the first time and to see how much TFFT has done to further them in life and reaching their goals.
Finally meeting Dickson after years of sponsorship
6) What inspired you to want to ride this June?
Kaitlin Rogers, who traveled with Meghann to photograph the first RIDETZ two years ago, published a book entitled 400 miles. I simply could not put it down. Picture after picture, image after breathtaking image. It was something I had to do. My friends who took part in 2010 said it was hands down the experience of a lifetime. I knew I had to do it. I wanted to experience the challenge both mentally and physically and to see this beautiful country while pushing my body to its limits.
7) Are you celebrating any milestone with RIDETZ?
Although I rode a bit when I was younger, I have just recently fell in love with biking again. I love to be active, but have never been much of a runner. The challenge itself, the training it requires, knowing the kids who will benefit from the awareness of our journey from Mt. Kilimanjaro to the Indian Ocean are all my motivation. When I dive into those clear waters after ten grueling days I hope it will be one of the most satisfying moments of my life.
8) What is your favorite place to ride? (besides Tanzania that is)
I lived in Miami for several years. Waking up on any given day, riding down miles and miles of sandy beaches, sun beating down on me, seeing the multitude of cultures thriving, and the history of the city itself was such a special thing. Pulling up to a spot on the water after a morning ride, not saying a word, just staring at the ocean feeling the burn–what an unbelievable moment.
9) What kind of bike do you train on? Does it have a name?
I currently have a Pinnarello road bike. Living in downtown Charlotte, I love hopping on the elevator and just getting on it and going. She is referred to as the “beast motivator.” Long story for another time.
I am also training at a spin place here in town that I have fallen in love with… great instructors, good music, really gets the blood flowing. TFFT held a fundraiser there a few weeks ago which was my first time, but I’ve been back many times since. It’s nice to feel my body building strength and endurance each and every time.
In addition I weight train 4-5 times a week at Just Fit training studios with a close friend who started it a few years back. It seems to be a good balance of cardio and strength training to prepare me for our journey this summer.
10) What unique ways are you planning on spreading awareness and fundraising?
Being as I am not as die hard rider as some of my friends, I have promised countless pictures and videos to those who will help support my ride. I have setup a page on crowdrise, reached out to friends and family, and I will be offering an all-expense paid trip to Tanzania to see firsthand the unbelievable things TFFT is doing on the ground to the person who helps raise the most money towards my cause.
YES, you read that correctly… an ALL-EXPENSE PAID trip to TANZANIA for the person who helps Ben raise the most money. To enter, you can create your own page through Ben’s Tanzania Challenge Page and reaching out to your network for support (once you’re on the page, just click JOIN THE TEAM) OR you can make a single donation on his fundraising page. The person who generates the most funds (either through a single personal donation OR through the combined total of donations collected from friends and family for the challenge) will be the lucky winner of an all-expense paid trip to Tanzania to see TFFT’s work. For more details, email Kaitlin@TheFoundationForTomorrow.org. Told you it would be a WONDERFUL Wednesday :)