Coast to coast
UD students cycle across America for Special Olympics, affordable housing
11:27 a.m., May 23, 2012--University of Delaware seniors Jack Matthews and Anna Bruno are looking forward to graduation and it’s not because summertime means relaxing at the beach or hanging out with friends.
It is because graduation puts these socially aware seniors closer to crisscrossing the country while raising social awareness for worthy causes.
Matthews, a mechanical engineering major and member of the UD men’s rugby team, is biking to support Special Olympics. Bruno, a biochemistry major and UD women’s rugby team member, is cycling to raise funds for Bike and Build.
“I was always looking to get involved, but with studies and sports, I never found time during college. To me this is a great step toward volunteering for a worthy organization,” explained Matthews.
The Lancaster, Pa., native will bike just over 4,000 miles in 55 days with his mother Bonnie to raise $5,000 for the Lancaster County Chapter of Special Olympics. They will begin the trip June 6 by dipping their back wheels in the Pacific Ocean at Cape Lookout State Park in Tillamook, Ore. Averaging 80 miles per day and camping at national and local parks overnight, the pair will culminate their journey Aug. 1 by dipping their front tires in the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Helopen State Park in Lewes, Del.
“I’ve always had a close relationship with my mom and my dad," Matthews said. "As an active family, we chose Special Olympics because we wanted to benefit an athletics organization and because of my dad’s history as a coach and former board member for Special Olympics.”
The trip is also a celebration of Matthews’ transition from college to professional work life. He begins work at Case New Holland, a large-scale agriculture and construction equipment company in Racine, Wis., on Aug. 20. It includes traversing several engineering marvels, including the historic Columbia River Highway, the oldest scenic highway in the U.S. (circa 1923), and the Dalles Lock and Dam, America’s fourth largest power producing dam. It also includes stops at sight-seeing venues including Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons.
While the Matthews make their way east, fellow Blue Hen Bruno will be pedaling from the Atlantic to the Pacific for Bike and Build, an organization that provides competitive grants to local affordable housing groups across the country.
Growing up just outside of Washington, D.C., in Haymarket, Va., Bruno witnessed first-hand the hardships that many Americans face. While she knows her trip will involve immense physical and mental struggles, including 100 mile per day rides, she maintains she is ready for the challenge.
“The fact that not everybody has a safe and stable place to live is just unfair. I’ve always had the belief that those who can help, should help,” remarked Bruno, an Honors Program student and veteran volunteer of such causes as Make-a-Wish and Relay for Life.
She will ride with 31 other people, including fellow Honors Program member and biochemistry major Nicholas Audette from West Greenwich, R.I. The 3,850-mile trip begins in Portland, Maine, on June 18 and culminates in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Aug. 26. Shortly after her return, Bruno begins an accelerated graduate nursing program at George Mason University toward becoming a pediatric oncology nurse.
“I really wanted to do something that was service oriented and incorporated an emersion-like experience,” said Bruno. Each rider raises a minimum of $4,500 for the cause. Now in its tenth year, Bike and Build runs eight trips annually and has raised more than $3.3 million for affordable housing since 2002.
Bruno said she chose Bike and Build because of their focus on providing grants to any affordable housing cause.
“It’s not just the big causes like Habitat for Humanity; it’s the little guys too. Even high school students who just want to make a difference in their communities can apply for a grant which I think spreads greater awareness of the affordable housing issue as a whole,” she said.
While both students will travel about 4,000 miles this summer, their paths will never cross. Matthews’ is a northern route that hugs the top of the country before moving southward. Among the states he will visit are Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Bruno’s is a southern route that begins in Maine but quickly moves southwest through Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and California.
Article by Karen B. Roberts
Video by Erick Huber