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    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Choosing a Charity

    Biking from Canada to Mexico to raise money for charity is not something I ever thought would really happen. My friends and I have kicked around the idea of doing a long-term, unsupported bike journey for about a year, but just recently we’ve decided to bite the bullet. With the economy the way it is now, none of us can find a decent job, and rather than cobble together random Craigslist jobs like we’ve done in the past, we’re leaving it all behind and biking off into the sunset.

    From the beginning, we knew we’d do our ride to raise money for a charity. When I mentioned our idea for a goodwill biking adventure to Brad, who’s enabled quite a few goodwill adventures of his own, he asked me to blog about the preparations and the trip for The idea is to include you readers in our process for planning and ultimately undertaking a journey for charity, and hear any tips from you about planning your own goodwill adventure.
    About Team Green Jello (named for a song Jess wrote a few years ago):

    Mel: I’m a freelance writer, currently working (for the next month, anyways) at Outside Magazine . Originally from Boston, I’m more of a runner and have never ridden more than 30 miles in one day. I also have never been to California or any of the West Coast.

    Jess: Maryland native Jess just finished working a season at Jackson Hole and is saving money for the trip by working as a freelance landscaper. Jess is our resident medical expert, having been trained in wilderness medicine through NOLS. Last summer, Jess biked nearly 4,000 miles from Baltimore to San Francisco, raising thousands of dollars for cancer research with 25 other people on the Hopkins 4K. Jess’s incredible summer last year, and her desire for a more flexible bike trip, were the inspiration for this adventure.

    Brendan: Brendan is taking a summer off from his true love, climbing, in order to join us for the first half of the trip. Last summer Brendan criss-crossed the country with a team of semi-professional climbers and hit some of the country’s sweetest climbing spots from Kentucky to Utah. Brendan is also our team photographer.

    Our itinerary, which has been through quite a few changes, currently stands at Vancouver, Canada to Imperial Beach, California, right on the border with Mexico. The Pacific Coast Trail, which hugs the coast and Highway 1, is a popular trail for first-time bikers. After determining the route, the next step for us is choosing a charity.

    We’ve kicked around a few charities but couldn’t find one to agree on. I was leaning towards The Press Institute for Women in the Developing World, while Jess wanted to do something for Alzheimer’s research. Both worthy causes, but they weren’t personal for everyone. When we’re hauling ass up the Cascades, we all want to feel like every pedal pump is for a cause we felt passionate about. We decided to narrow our charity choices down to a list of requirements:

    • A small to midsized organization, where our donation would have a big impact
    • An organization we could have personal contact with before, during, and after the bike trip, not something like UNICEF, where we’d never get to talk to a real person
    • An organization that works internationally, since all three of us are avid travelers

    We talked with quite a few people to hear their suggestions. Brad suggested the charity Re-Cycle, and as soon as I looked at the website I knew it would be a perfect fit. Re-Cycle takes beat up bikes from around Britain and sends them to multiple sites in Africa, where they are distributed to health and aid workers who have no other way to access remote villages. We all loved the idea of international development paired with biking. But further research revealed a problem: because the charity was located in England, anyone donating would have to pay a steep exchange rate as well as international transaction fee.

    After some more internet research, Jess identified three American organizations doing very similar work: Bikes Not Bombs, Bikes for the World, and World Bicycle Relief. Jess contacted all of them and we decided to go with World Bicycle Relief.

    Now that we’ve got our charity figured out and we’re less from two months from departure, we plan on building a website for fundraising and updating our family and friends to our progress along the way. We’re also working with the nice folks at’s cycling store for some partnership opportunities. Tune in next time for our fundraising blog post.
    “Take it easy, take it easy, don’t let the sounds of your own wheels drive you crazy.”
    –Eric Clapton

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