Five Wesleyan students will pedal to help the
cause of more affordable home-ownership this summer, raising funds and
awareness for Habitat for Humanity coast-to-coast.
The students, led by Jessalee Landfried ’07, will bike 70 miles a day,
hoping to cross the entire country in two months. Landfried will be
accompanied by Elizabeth Ogata ‘09, Liana Woskie ‘10, Margot Kistler ‘09 and
Shira Miller ‘07, along with 90 other students from Yale University.
This is the 13th year Yale has hosted the Habitat Bicycle Challenge (HBC)
and Wesleyan came aboard this year.
“The trip is essentially a large-scale service project with a strong
commitment to supporting Habitat for Humanity,” Landfried says.
Before leaving, each rider will raise $4,000 - approximately a dollar for
every mile biked - for Habitat for Humanity. Every night, the riders will
give presentations and answer questions in churches and community centers,
trying to increase Habitat's visibility, stimulate the formation of new
chapters and encourage donations.
The event will generate approximately $430,000 in proceeds, enough to
underwrite the construction of eight Habitat homes.
Each year, the Habitat Bicycle Challenge not only raises more money for
Habitat than any other student-run fundraiser in the country, it introduces
thousands of people to the good work that Habitat for Humanity does. Last
year, the students raised $430,000.
Landfried learned about the challenge from a teammate in the Americorps.
“My team leader had just finished HBC, and said it was the most exciting,
challenging, fun thing she'd ever done,” she says. “I chose to become a
leader this year because I'm excited by the opportunity to have an adventure
and do something really amazing for a great organization.”
The riders can choose a northern, central or southern route to the west
coast. All three routes depart from New Haven, Conn. on June 1, and they end
in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco, respectively.
Landfried and Miller will ride the central route, biking across
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming,
Montana and Idaho before reaching Portland, Oregon. Kistler will be on the
northern trip and Ogata and Woskie will ride the southern trip.
Ogata chose to participate to combine meaningful
service work with a journey across the country. This will be her second trek
across the U.S.
“Several summers ago, I biked across the country for my own enjoyment,” she
says. “Although the trip was amazing, the Habitat Bicycle challenge really
excites me because it has the purpose of helping other people in all parts
of the country.”
The students will sleep in churches and community centers along the way. In
every community where they spend the night, the riders will give a short
slideshow presentation about Habitat, the trip, and the goal of ending
poverty housing. These venues generally supply meals for the riders.
“When biking all day long, most people need around 6,000 calories a day - so
we're going to be hungry,” Landfried says.
During the ride, every route is accompanied by a support van, which carries
the bikers’ clothing and necessities. When they reach their destinations,
the van will bring the riders back to Connecticut along with their bikes.
In exchange for raising $4,000 per rider, the bikers receive a free road
bike, deep discounts on gear, and free room and board for the duration of
the trip. The bike, gear discounts and food are provided for by corporate
sponsorships that the leaders arrange over the course of the year.
Since most of the riders are recreational riders who are excited by the
combination of adventure and service, every rider is expected to start
training once they receive their bike.
Landfried says she bikes about 50 miles a week now, and is training for the
trip by increasing the number of miles every week.
But having the physical ability is minor to having the mental ability.
“The prospect of biking across the country is certainly daunting,” Landfried
says. “My parents won't even drive that far! But I try to keep reminding
myself that students have been completing the trip for more than a decade
now, and that if they could do it, so can I.”
Landfried says her energy is currently too focused on securing corporate
sponsorships, individual fundraising, planning the route and arranging
housing to get too worried about the biking itself.
The bikers will spend at least one day a week working on various habitat
home sites along their journey west.
Miller says the tip may be a once-in-a-lifetime
"I'm doing the trip because I can't
imagine a more unique way to explore the country, or a better time
to do it than right after graduating college," she says. "It is a
great personal experience because I know I will be supporting a
social cause that is important to me while pushing my limits and
having a great time."
In addition to raising awareness and funds for Habitat, Landfried says she
has other goals in mind.
“I hope to gain a greater appreciation for the vastness and diversity of our
country, to meet interesting new people, to have fun, and to develop quads
the size of a football,” she says.
The Wesleyan fund-raisers are currently accepting donations to support their
efforts. They plan to hold fund-raising events later in the year. For more information on making a donation, visit
http://habitatbike.org or email Jessalee Landfried at