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Grand Rapidians ride Sea to Sea to fight local, global poverty

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

The Sea to Sea 2013 Bike Tour is a nine week, 3,900-mile cycling trek across North America designed to raise awareness and funds in support of those living in poverty around the world.
Sea to Sea participants in 2008

Sea to Sea participants in 2008 /Jonathan Stoner

Underwriting support from:

Sea to Sea Call for Riders

Dates: June 22, 2013 to August 24, 2013

Number of Miles: 3,900

Average Number of Miles Per Day: 68

Amount Raised to Fight Poverty: $1.5 million in 2008

Deadline to Register: March 1, 2013.

Starting in Los Angeles on June 22, an estimated 180 people will travel the country by bike from one sea to the other, ending in New York City. The 180 cyclists include those who have participated in the past, those who intend on riding all 3,900 miles, those who dedicate themselves to biking a specific stretch of the ride and maybe even you! Time is running out to sign up as the deadline is March 1.

Having ridden 1,500 miles on the 2008 Sea to Sea tour  from Denver to Grand Rapids, Terry Barnes says that the interactions he had with people and strangers along the way is what inspired him to participate again in 2013.

“The best part is the reactions you get from people when you tell them that you are dedicating so much of your time and energy towards the cause," says Barnes. "It really brings out the best in people.”

On one occasion, Barnes and many other cyclists sat down in a restaurant to enjoy a meal together. Surprised and confused by the number of cyclists sitting at her tables, one waitress asked what was going on. Barnes and several other people at the table explained to her who they were, where they were going, what they were doing and most importantly why they were doing it. The waitress then talked to her fellow waitresses, returning to the table having pooled together all of their tips from the night. The waitresses donated it all to the cause. But why were they doing it?

Through the efforts of participants like Barnes, Sea to Sea contributes funds to local and international agencies working to fight poverty. Through this event, individuals, groups and congregations are encouraged to get active in serving the poor in some new way, whether in your own community or half a world away. Sometimes this impact comes in the form of interactions at a restaurant, still other times it comes in the form of financial impact on local or international communities overcome by poverty. Whether it is financial support or advocacy, we can all do our part to help end the cycle of poverty. Sea to Sea gives individuals and communities the opportunity to feel as though they contributed to addressing such a huge issue worldwide.

Apart from the advocacy that happens all along the way, Sea to Sea participants contribute to the purpose of the event by raising donations prior to the trip. Each cyclist who is riding the full distance is required to raise at least $10,000 toward the cause and those riding a week are only asked to raise $2,500.

Following the 2008 tour, Sea to Sea sent over $1.5 million to local, national and international agencies working to fight poverty. Funds generated through the tour were used to support new or ongoing initiatives in the areas of business and community development, and continue to provide people around the world with access to clean water, immunizations and other vital medical services.

With one-third of the support raised by the tour going to local churches and organizations in communities of all shapes and sizes, multiple organizations in our own city of Grand Rapids have been using these funds to fight poverty in unique ways. These organizations include Oakdale Neighbors, the Micah Center and Volunteers In Service (VIS).

People from Grand Rapids and all over the country are gearing up for this chance to have a local and global impact. After spending several months experiencing poverty first hand as a teacher in Uganda, one young woman greatly anticipates this opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.

“Having cycled in 2008, I knew what I was getting myself into: the sore muscles, the blisters (in places you couldn't dream of), the sunburns... But not only that, the community, the purpose and the sheer joy of riding all day long are now awaiting me next summer," says Christeena Nienhuis. "Besides these great joys that come with doing Sea to Sea, I am now doing something tangible to help those in need. You see, for me, poverty has faces. It's not just some obscure notion about people suffering 'over there.' Perhaps some of the funds I raise will go to help Micheal, the orphaned 12 year old boy with a kidney problem, or to help Moses achieve more education or to help Evalyne, the beautiful young girl who works after school with her mother.”

You may not feel the same intimate connection with children facing poverty in countries like Uganda, but we have all seen the effects of poverty in our own community first hand. If you are interested in riding, visit the Sea to Sea website as soon as possible for more information. Deadlines are just around the corner. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with a local group and have a global impact.

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