Kiel Reijnen will make an emotional return to Nevada City for the start of stage 1 at the Amgen Tour of California Sunday. The second-year pro and his Jelly Belly-Kenda teammates will don purple wristbands and raise funds in remembrance of Reijnen’s aunt, who was murdered in neighboring Grass Valley in 2005.
“My aunt was an amazing person,” said Reijnen. “She was a teacher, a mother and an inspired individual. Her passing affected more people’s lives then I could imagine. We all miss her dearly. I want to follow her example of inspiration and use my experiences to make sure that what happened to her doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
In November 2007, a Napa Valley, California, jury convicted Richard Williams of the murder his estranged wife, Hendrika “Hetty” Williams. Williams was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Williams’ daughters, Sarah Reijnen and Briana Williams, have partnered with the Cedar Ridge, California, based Women Of Worth to create Hetty’s Haven, a safe home for women escaping violent environments. After securing funding to acquire the property and maintain the program for two years, WOW did just that and hopes to open the home in late 2010.
“It’s basically a safehouse where women can go to get their lives back on track and start over,” said Reijnen. “They have enough money for two years, on a limited budget, and so we’re hoping to get more funding together through the Tour of California to really secure their place in the community. The house is in the area, so it’s a part of the community the bike race is taking place in and has a direct impact.”
While modest in its reach, the new arm of the WOW organization hopes to make an immediate impact for women and families facing domestic violence in the Nevada City area.
“The house can hold about seven families, but that’s pretty tight, so that’s maximum capacity,” said Reijnen. “They know there is greater need than they can provide with that single house, so they are in the future wanting to, if they can get the funding together, get a second house because what they’ve seen with the people coming in is that there is a need for it.”
Jelly Belly riders will work the crowd at their team tent in the race expo area in Nevada City Sunday before the start of the race. The team hopes to raise enough funds to further increase the capacity of the WOW program, both through Hetty’s Haven and its non-relocation programs.
“This will all be going on at the Jelly Belly booth on stage 1 at the Tour of California,” said Reijnen. “If people want to donate, they can go over there. The team is signing a bunch of water bottles that Jelly Belly is giving away to anyone making a donation.”
According to Reijnen, funds raised at the event will go toward utility bills for the home, providing meals for residents and staff training. WOW is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization in the state of California.
“Now I can honestly say that when stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California starts, I will start knowing the team isn’t just there to make an impact on the race, we are there to make a positive impact on the surrounding community,” said Reijnen. “What this means for me and my family is beyond measure.”