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900-mile trek is a D.R.E.A.M. Ride

A lone cyclist leaves Glacier National Park during last summer's Yes Ride.

Last summer, Chris Wells ’03 pedaled through the pain during Yes Ride, a 4,000-mile, cross-country cycling trek that raised money to address problems facing the world’s poor.

“I was humbled by people, whom we had never met before, opening up their hearts and homes to feed, house and talk to us,” Wells says. “I quickly realized that the event was far more than just a long-distance bicycle ride—it was a moving monument to hope and change. We had mobilized around the belief that we could make a difference, and the people we met wanted to be a part of it. They fueled the spirit of the ride.”

When two of the organizers of the Yes Ride decided not to continue the event this year, Wells was determined to make sure that spirit didn’t die with it. So he joined with two other Lehigh alums—Eamon Aloyo ’04, one of the original Yes Ride organizers, and Walter Scheirer ’04—to organize a 900-mile cycling trip from Boston to New York City, by way of Montreal, to benefit humanitarian aid programs.

The three Lehigh alums, along with a maximum of 20 riders, will embark on the two-week D.R.E.A.M. Ride on Aug. 3 in Boston and travel through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Canada, and back through New York, completing the trip in New York City on Aug. 17.

The acronym D.R.E.A.M. stands for Development, Relief, Education, Aid and Mobilization.

"Ride simply had to continue"

Yes Riders pose at the Continental Divide.

This year’s ride will benefit six international humanitarian organizations fighting to combat preventable global poverty in the key areas of women’s empowerment and education in Tanzania, health care in Rwanda, emergency disaster relief, HIV/AIDS and malaria vaccine research, and secondary school scholarships.

“With so many organizations, both large and small, to choose from, we narrowed down our list to those with proven track records in development and either an established working relationship with our group or a willingness to work with us to promote their cause,” Scheirer says.

The beneficiaries of this year’s trip include Doctors without Borders, Partners in Health/Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF), CARE, Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University, International Peace Initiatives, and The Canaan Foundation

Last summer’s Yes Ride, which went from Seattle to Boston, was co-organized by Aloyo and Andrew Glancy ’06, and raised more than $64,000 to help impoverished Third World countries and support the United Nations’ Millennium Goals.

The development goals of the U.N. are to increase education, reduce extreme poverty, improve healthcare, and assist in HIV and malaria vaccine research. The specific charities that the Yes Ride benefited were the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, the International Peace Initiative, Heifer International, Partners in Health, and Circles of Ten.

The Yes Riders depended on the hospitality of townspeople for lodging as they crossed the country. They slept on the floors of houses, churches and community centers. They started the ride in Seattle on June 1, 2006, and finished in Boston on July 27, 2006.

“A few of us riders, along with Eamon, made the decision that this type of ride simply had to continue, both to offer incredible and potentially life-changing athletic experiences to other cyclists as well as to continue to raise funds for the deserving organizations and therefore, and most importantly, to continue to offer opportunities to the people in the developing world,” Wells says.

As undergraduates, Aloyo met Scheirer in Lehigh’s Humanities Center, run by Gordon Bearn, professor of philosophy, and the two studied international development together through the international relations department. Meanwhile, Aloyo and Wells trained side-by-side as members of Lehigh’s cycling team.

The combination of international relations studies and cycling that started at Lehigh is now at the heart of the D.R.E.A.M. Ride. “Our aim is to help others improve their own lives, not, as is often argued, provide long-term aid that will breed dependence,” Aloyo says.

Although Wells hopes that this year’s trip surpasses last year’s monetarily, he also hopes for more educational success.

“I would also define it a success if people we meet think a little differently about what is possible in the developing world,” Well says. “If people learn that Africa isn’t hopeless and full of only starving kids and elephants, but full of hardworking people full of such spirit that the rest of the world can and should learn from.

“I’ll define success if the ride continues next year. I’ll consider it a success if the riders discover that they can indeed bike 90 miles a day through mountain ranges. I will define the ride a success if just one person is inspired to do something that they might have doubted before.”

For more information about the D.R.E.A.M. Ride and the charities it benefits, or to make a donation, visit www.dream-ride.org.

--Madelyn King

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2007

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