Bike Journey Raises Money For Housing Center

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The journey started in La Jolla, Calif., and will stretch to Georgia. The cast of eight is aged from 18 to 61, and will bike the 3,300 miles in 53 days.

They left the West Coast on June 16, each dipping their bike's rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean, and will arrive in Savannah, Ga. on Aug. 8, dipping their front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean.

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A group of eight is taking part in a 3,300-mile cross country journey to raise money for the Fuller Center for Housing, a spin-off of Habitat for Humanity. From left to right sitting are Dani Schenk, Nicole Cisneros, Chris Cosby, Tony Campbell and Ryan Iafigliola. Standing are Nathan Landrum, Aaron Patzwahl, and Doug Stephens.

The goal is to raise $100,000 for the Fuller Center for Housing, a spin-off of Habitat for Humanity.

The "fearless leader" is Ryan Iafigliola, 22, a finance graduate of Notre Dame University.

There is Tony Campbell who is 61 and the eldest rider, who has been nicknamed Tony the Tiger by his fellow riders, and who wore an orange T-shirt Monday afternoon in Payson, that night's resting place.

There is Nathan Landrum who is biking with a torn ACL. "I can't break a torn ligament," he said, adding that pedaling's swinging motion isn't painful.

Even considering lost ligaments, the group has raised about $60,000, much of it before the first pedal was swung.

The Fuller Center is not Habitat for Humanity, though the same man -- Millard Fuller -- founded both.

Habitat's board of directors ousted Fuller once his opinions strayed too far from the board's, riders said. Fuller started the center in 2005.

For many in the group, Fuller -- who was a self-made millionaire by age 29 but gave it all away after deciding his health and marriage would be better without it -- is an icon.

He's an entrepreneur, Campbell said.

When an organization grows too big, sometimes its ideals don't align with those of the founder and it's time to split, he added.

The Fuller Center aims to "provide a helping hand up, not a hand out," said rider Chris Cosby.

However, the two organizations collaborate. Some of the bikers discovered the ride through Habitat. According to Cosby, on at least one occasion, the Fuller Center has provided land for Habitat to build a house.

Iafigliola, who brainstormed the bike ride, is in the midst of a yearlong Mennonite volunteer stint. He felt lucky, he said, to have parents who helped financially with his college education.

"It's a huge blessing that enables me to do something like this."

The group's summertime southerly route, covering roughly 62 miles each day, means the heat will test their endurance.

On the road by 5 a.m., with 20 or 30 miles in before the sun rises, the early start mitigates the life-sapping heat, Cosby said.

Most riders carry camel packs with water. They alternate driving a truck with an attached trailer, which leads 15 or 20 miles ahead with supplies.

But "we don't want it to be where the eight of us bike and the rest stand back and clap," Iafigliola said.

Bikers unable to traverse the entire nation can join for segments.

Or "if you can't ride a bike, maybe you can write a check," Iafigliola added.

Spreading word of the Fuller Center is part of the group's mission. They want to inspire communities to start chapters where none exist.

Already, there are 38 domestic chapters and 12 foreign offices. The organization both builds new homes and helps people repair old ones.

While the goal is fund-raising, the experience of crossing a nation by bicycle, on country roads, with a now-close crew who were unacquainted before this month, is reason enough, team members say.

They came from Texas, Michigan, New Jersey, and Georgia. They're slow and fast, young and older, with ligaments and without. But for these eight, their own lives will likely change even as they change the lives of others.

For more information: www.fullercenterbiketrip.com

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