In 1973, two Des Moines Register columnists challenged themselves to ride their bicycles across Iowa. This challenge started what would become the largest, longest, and oldest bicycle-touring event in the world. The Des Moines Register has sponsored an annual bicycle ride across Iowa since that year. The event is known as RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa™). What started as a ride with a group of casual friends has grown to include thousands of people of all ages, from across the country and various parts of the world.
In 1996, a concern for disadvantaged and at-risk youth caused a small group of Des Moines cyclists (Jim Green, Herb Rogers, Frank Owens, and J. D. Hall) to discuss how these youngsters could participate in RAGBRAI. They wanted youth who otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience the sense of fellowship, accomplishment and goal setting that participation in RAGBRAI brings. They also wanted to get them off the streets and away from non-productive activities. Working as a grassroots organization, they successfully obtained equipment, recruited, and trained youth to participate in Dream Team activities in1997.
This group rode along with their adult mentors on RAGBRAI XXV, as the first "Dream Team." The Des Moines Register & RAGBRAI, Bike World and Dream Team mentor John Reese are primarily responsible for securing resources and funding for The Dream Team. The Des Moines Riverfront YMCA has worked hand and hand with the Register and Bike World in providing its resources for Dream Team activities since the beginning.
A nonprofit organization, known as PACE (Porter Avenue Center for Education) provides support through some of its staff and several PACE youth have participated in Dream Team activities. In recent years, The Success Program of the Des Moines Public Schools has provided support through staff and youth participants.
2014 Air Force Cycling Team partnership: On RAGBRAI 2016 a Dream Team rider was in a minor bike accident and hit her head. Air Force Cycling Team (AFCT) came upon the scene, one diverted bike traffic and one triaged the rider. The mentor called 911. The rider was distraught and crying, the AFCT rider held her hand and promised he would stay until the ambulance arrived. He helped her into the ambulance and the medics took over. She had told him she really wanted a waffle and was only 5 miles from the food stand. At the ER, after all checked out well, the rider was unsure if she told the AFCT thank you. She was also sad about not getting the waffle.
After RAGBRAI Dream Team messaged AFCT through Facebook and retold the story and how much she and the team were grateful for their care. The director of the AFCT found the rider who helped the youth and became a team partner after all the stories were told.
Since then, a friendship has been formed. AFCT has done virtual training with the team, sent notes of encouragement. They’ve joined the Dream Team for meals at camp and encouraged us on the route. One has even driven from Texas to join us at a regular campout so he could get more time with the team.
A pursuit of a waffle and a bump on the head has led to priceless partnership inspiring the team members of AFCT and Dream Team!
2020 Dream Team became a non-profit: In 2020, under the leadership of Brian O’Leary, Dream Team became an official non-profit and formed a 501c3. A board of directors was elected which allowed Dream Team to further tell its story and plan for the future.
2022 Dream Team celebrates 25 years: Throughout the 2022 Dream Team season, there were numerous opportunities to celebrate the 25th year of Dream Team. The team had special speaker series to encourage the youth and a scavenger hunt on RAGBRAI that everyone could participate in. In August the Dream Team celebrated 25 years with a huge family reunion at Water Works Park in Des Moines. Over 300 past riders, mentors, and supporters attended this reunion.