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Five Wesleyan students will participate in the Habitat for Humanity Bicycle Challenge this summer. Each biker is trying to raise $4,000 for the cause.
Posted 12.04.06

Students Pedal for Affordable Housing

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 experience.
 

"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 jessalee.landfried@gmail.com.

 

By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor