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Next week, semiretired businessman John Elder will climb onto his bicycle and set off on his 10th consecutive nine-day, 900-kilometer journey to raise money for Kids ’n Kinship, a mentoring program in Dakota County.

The Christian Elder Memorial 900 charity ride is named for Elder’s son Christian, a former professional race-car driver who died in 2007 at age 38.

The route begins Thursday on the Root River and Shooting Star trails near Austin in southeastern Minnesota. Then the riders will move to trails in northern Minnesota.

The ride will conclude June 6 with a ceremony at Merchants Bank in Apple Valley, the primary corporate sponsor since the first ride in 2006.

Two years ago, the ride raised $35,000. Last year, it was $42,000, and Elder said the 10 riders are on pace to make or exceed that this year.

All of the money goes to Kids ’n Kinship, a nonprofit that serves children ages 5 to 16 in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Farmington, Lakeville and Rosemount. The group provides mentors to the children, who are mostly from single-parent homes.

There are 70 children on the nonprofit’s waiting list now; 50 of them are boys.

The ride is the charity’s No. 1 source of funds.

“The passion and dedication of the riders is inspiring,” said Kids ’n Kinship Director Jan Belmore. “Through their efforts and the funds they have raised, the futures of many children in our community have been greatly affected.”

Elder, 68, is chairman of Elder-Jones Inc., a general contractor that builds retail stores throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

Elder first saw the benefits of the mentoring program as a volunteer. He was a mentor to Dante, now 22, from age 11 until adulthood. They remain good friends.

“The benefits go both ways,” Elder said. “You can’t imagine how much enjoyment you get from that. You sure learn a lot more about how to run those electronic gadgets.”

People can donate online and follow the riders’ journey at