TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - After a 17-year partnership with Tu Nidito Child and Family Services, El Tour de Tucson is searching for a new primary beneficiary.
Since 1997, cyclists have raised $3.7 million for the local organization that helps families and children affected by serious illness or the loss of life, El Tour de Tucson founder Richard DeBernardis said.
"It came as a complete surprise," Tu Nidito Executive Director Liz McCusker said. "They were part of our family, and they're still part of our family as far as I'm concerned."
Tu Nidito's growth to help 600 families is tied to the money raised and exposure each year at El Tour, McCusker said.
"With the name recognition they have in the community, with the "Ride for a Child" program, with the amount of funds we've helped raise over the years, I think they're a pretty well set financial foundation," DeBernardis said.
After the University of Arizona Medical Center pulled out of sponsoring the race, DeBernadis said El Tour faced an uncertain financial future.
"Once we lost them, it changed everything for us," DeBernardis said. "We could have gone out of business."
The El Tour board is searching for a new national nonprofit to help bring in a bigger sponsor, more cyclists and more money for Tucson's economy, DeBernardis said.
"I think with a national agency we'll become recognized as the number one fundraising event in America," DeBernardis said, "that's what we want."
The board has narrowed down the field of national nonprofit organizations to four. A decision could come next Thursday, DeBernardis said.
All McCusker is concerned about is raising enough money to continue helping the children and families it serves. Last year's race brought in about $330,000 for Tu Nidito, with about a third of the money coming from the "Ride for a Child Program," DeBernardis said.
Last year each of the 9,000 cyclists contributed $20 for Tu Nidito, McCusker said.
"We look at Tu Nidito as that little nest, that we're that container that can help that family find some comfort and some hope," McCusker said.
Sign ups for the "Ride for a Child" program, where cyclists pledge at least $500 and are paired with a Tu Nidito child, are behind schedule as El Tour waits to select its new beneficiary, McCusker said.