What do you get when you cross Humanitarian Aid and Cycling?

You get Bike and Build.

You get cool people riding across the country building houses for Habitat for Humanity.

You get stuff done.

This is one of those moments when I wish I was young and free again.


Not everyone can say they rode their bike across the United States during the summer, and even fewer can say they did that and helped build 10 houses in the process. But 270 young adults from all across the country are taking part in Bike and Build’s cross-country bicycle trips, which benefit affordable housing groups. One of eight groups was in Orem on Tuesday helping to build a twin home for Habitat for Humanity.

The 32 riders and builders have been traveling from Charleston, S.C., since May 26. They have crossed through Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Utah and have yet to make their way through Idaho and Oregon, eventually ending in Santa Cruz, Calif., on Aug. 11. Throughout the journey, the group has stopped where it has been able to help local affordable housing organizations build homes. The young adults also participated in a housing blitz in Colorado Springs, Colo., where a large portion of the proceeds from the trip went to fund an entire home.

Bike and Build was organized in 2001, with the first ride taking place in 2002. The goal of Bike and Build is to promote awareness of the need for and importance of affordable housing in communities throughout the country. Bike and Build has contributed more than $2.5 million to housing groups to fund projects planned and executed by the young adults who are introduced to the affordable housing cause and are given service opportunities through the program.

Jeremy Story is from Augusta, Ga., and he is a Bike and Build route leader for the South Carolina 2011 team. Story got involved after hearing about the program from a friend of a friend. Each group member must raise $4,000, perform 10 hours of sweat equity labor and ride 500 miles on a bike.

“The hardest challenge is raising the $4,000,” Story said. “I was able to receive help from businesses, family members and civic organizations.”

Once everything was organized, all 32 young adults made their way to Charleston, S.C., on May 23. Their trip started on May 26.

“A typical day begins about 6 a.m.,” Story said. “We get up, pack up, eat our breakfast and complete our assigned chores. We try to be on the road between 7:45 and 8 a.m. Riders can ride as fast or as slow as they want. We usually have one lunch stop and try to arrive at our host site at about 4 p.m. If riders get in early they can explore the town. Our dinner is from 6 to 7 p.m., and then everyone is free until curfew, which is 11 p.m.”

The group stayed with the Seventh-day Adventist Church during a stop in Provo and Orem. It has also stayed in various community centers, campgrounds and churches across the country.

Johnson has a greater appreciation for the state of Utah because of his experience in the program.

“I have been able to see Utah from new eyes,” he said. “We live in a truly beautiful and amazing state. I have seen things here that I don’t ever see when I ride in a car. Seeing my home on a bike has been a completely new experience. And to be able to participate in a cause that I care about and is very near and dear to my heart has been amazing.”

The riders and builders have had many positive experiences throughout their travels, but the experience has not come without challenges.

One of the female route leaders, Christina Genco, died on June 6 when she was struck by an SUV in Rainsville, Ala. The group members spent a few days regrouping, participating in therapy, attending the funeral and supporting Christina’s family before being bused to Arkansas to finish their route.

“No one went home after Christina died,” Tully said. “I think the experience made everyone want to stay even more. We have all grown closer together as the summer has gone on. It has also made me see that being a leader is an opportunity to give back. And there is joy in giving.”

The group will finish its route with a 15-mile ride from San Jose to Santa Cruz where it will celebrate with family and friends on the beach.

“We started this experience by having all the riders put their back tire into the Atlantic Ocean in Charleston,” Story said. “We will finish by putting all of our front tires into the Pacific Ocean in California.

To follow the riders on their route or if you are interested in joining a Bike and Build trip and would like more information, visit the organization’s website at www.bikeandbuild.org.

Copyright 2011 Daily Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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