Merrimack woman honored as national Community Hero

Edna Woods, of Merrimack, was selected as a national runner-up in the Safeco Insurance Co. Community Hero contest.

Woods was awarded $5,000 for the charity she represented, the New England Parkinson’s Ride. She won an additional $5,000 for being among the top three vote recipients.

Woods was nominated by her son Chris J. Woods, president of Advantage Insurance in Merrimack. Chris Woods is a board member of the New England Parkinson’s Ride, and has ridden the 100-mile route each year since 2008.

Edna Woods hasn’t been on a bike for more than 60 years, but when one of her sons, Chris, an avid cyclist, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she realized that she could make a difference without riding at all.

After searching unsuccessfully for a charity cycling event for Parkinson’s disease in New England, Edna Woods, 79, created the New England Parkinson’s Ride in 2008.

The event gives cyclists a choice of scenic rides of varying lengths, from 10 miles up to 100 miles, all starting and ending at Old Orchard Beach in Maine.

The ride attracted 35 cyclists the first year and raised $27,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The ride this year, which took place in September, involved 526 cyclists and nearly 100 volunteers, and the event brought in more than $260,000.

Donated funds are used to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease, help advance research and pursue a cure. Every dollar raised by the ride goes to the foundation.

Edna Woods, the executive director of the ride, coordinates every aspect of the event, including route mapping, registration, volunteer assignments and more. She even organizes the annual pasta supper for cyclists the night before the ride.

Thanks to Edna Woods, the ride has grown into the largest charity event for the Michael J. Fox Foundation in the country this year.

Safeco/Liberty Mutual representatives will honor Woods at a lunch at The Homestead Restaurant at noon Friday, Dec. 13, when they will present her with the Community Hero checks and a plaque.

They will also present a plaque to daughter Cindy Woods Theberge, for the work she does with the ride, and to Chris Woods for nominating his mother for the award.