Cyclists bike cross country to raise awareness of, funds for poverty

2013-08-01T12:00:00Z 2013-08-02T09:46:08Z Cyclists bike cross country to raise awareness of, funds for povertyJeanette Lach (219) 933-3267 jeanette.lach@nwi.com nwitimes.com

LANSING | A group of 120 bicyclists who are trekking cross country to raise awareness and funds to fight poverty arrived in Lansing on Wednesday.

"We make a statement when we ride into a town and we hope people are intrigued by what we do," said tour manager Al DeKock, with the organization Sea to Sea. DeKock said they are the largest cycling group riding cross country.

The Sea to Sea 2013 Bike Tour follows the shape and format of similar cycling projects hosted by the Christian Reformed Church in 2005 and 2008. In 2005, the tour raised almost $1 million, and in 2008, the tour raised more than $2.5 million before costs and sent over $1.5 million to local, national and international agencies fighting poverty, according to the organization's website, www.seatosea.org.

The cyclists started arriving late afternoon at Illiana Christian High School, ate dinner there and participated in an ice cream social before turning in for the night in the gymnasium.

The cyclists each need to raise $10,000 to participate in the ride. A total of 220 are on the tour, but not all are riding the entire distance from Newport Beach, Calif., to Staten Island, N.Y. This week there are 120 cyclists in the ride. A total of 78 are going the whole distance.

Sea to Sea provides four semitrucks of food, gear and equipment to support the cyclists.

They rode 91 miles Wednesday from Shabonna, Ill., to Lansing and embarked around 7 a.m. Thursday for Benton Harbor, Mich. They ride an average of 70 miles a day and take rest stops every 15 to 20 miles.

Kaitlyn Kuipers, of Brighton, Ontario, who is riding seven of the nine weeks, started June 24 in California. The full 3,900-mile ride ends Aug. 24.

"I'll definitely do it again," said Kuipers, 26. "It gives you a new perspective on what it takes to raise awareness for the cause."

A total of 65 percent of the money raised goes to three organizations: World Renew, Partners Worldwide and the Reformed Church of America to fight poverty all over the world, DeKock said. Another 35 percent will be available in the form of grants to local organizations.

The ride is sponsored by the Reformed Church of America and the Christian Reformed Church, and the cyclists frequently stop at affiliated churches and schools.

Adam Wiersma, 22, of Holland, Mich., is riding the whole distance and says most riders are gone each day by 7:30 a.m. They will be in Grand Rapids, Mich., by the weekend.

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