FORT WORTH -- Early Wednesday afternoon, 32 bicyclists from 16 Texas churches pedaled down Main Street into General Worth Square, ending a 238-mile ride from Montgomery, Texas, to raise money for insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria in Africa.
More than 100 observers cheered and waved orange and purple pompoms as they arrived. The cyclists were greeted by Bishop Janie Huie, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, and Bishop Benjamin Boni of the Ivory Coast, both in town for the United Methodist Church General Conference that opened Wednesday.
The end of the ride was an informal opening to the conference that meets every four years in various locations to discuss church policy. This is the first time the conference has been in Fort Worth.
The cyclists raised $156,144 from sponsors, besting the group's goal of $100,000.
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The nets cost $10 each and are mainly for pregnant women and children younger than 5.
"Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!" Boni told the cyclists. "I would like to say my gratitude. ... Thank you very much for what you are doing for us, in Africa especially."
He said children with the disease are sick "every second, every minute, every hours."
"When you have malaria, you cannot work, you are weak, you cannot do anything. So I am very grateful. Bless you a lot."
More than $18 million has been raised in the grassroots effort. Founding partners are the United Nations Foundation, the National Basketball Association's NBA Cares, the United Methodist Church and Sports Illustrated.