History of the Challenge

In 1989, Harold Wagner, a Westchester-based businessman and avid cyclist, wanted to create something that would combine his passion for cycling with his desire to assist others. So in June of 1989, Harold climbed on his bike and took off by himself, riding over 400 miles from Westchester County to Montreal, Canada. Braving bad weather and many hills, Harold completed the challenge and successfully raised $10,000 from friends and associates who supported his effort. Harold dedicated his pledges to the work of Westchester Arc and Westchester-Putnam Special Olympics.

So inspired by his inaugural ride, Harold sought to expand his personal experience into an annual event to be shared by others. Working with Robby Morris, then Area Coordinator of Westchester-Putnam Special Olympics, a blueprint was designed which ultimately would become the foundation of the Tour de Wagner.

The basic concept was to keep the number of riders at a manageable level while providing a safe and dignified environment. The Tour was made available to riders of all ages, gender and cycling ability. Riders were encouraged to ride at their own pace while being supportive of others. It was hoped new friendships and fond memories would be fostered over the weekend and that each rider would gain a sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment. In 1990, sixteen cyclists, accompanied by three support vans, took to the road and headed north 200 miles into the hills of Vermont. No one could have imagined the impact that day would eventually have on the lives of those who would come to ride in the challenge or the thousands of people who would ultimately benefit from it!

Over the years the Challenge continued to grow in popularity and productivity. Several logistical changes were implemented and the landscape was modified. The Dannon Company, based in Tarrytown, NY, served as sponsor for ten years. Veteran riders returned year after year and, complemented by a constant crop of first-time riders, a unique blend was established which kept the Tour fresh and energized. The basic philosophy of "riders challenging themselves to help others overcome the challenges in their lives" remained constant and paramount. Since its inception, the Challenge has raised over 5.26 million dollars to date.