Students from Yale Bike Across Country for Habitat

Fundraising for Habitat for Humanity can be harder work than roof raising, at least for the 60 students, most of them from Yale, making their annual cross-country bike tour on behalf of the organization.

Now in its sixth year, the Habitat Bicycle Challenge (HBC) was the brainchild of a Yale student who conceived of it while riding solo from New Haven to Habitat headquarters in Georgia.

The nine-week bike-a-thon, which raises awareness as well as money for the non-profit organization, got underway officially in 1995 when a group of Yale students took off from Washington, D.C, for a 4,000-mile journey to San Francisco.

The program was so popular that in 1998 another route was added-between New Haven and Vancouver, Canada- and the number of participants doubled. Since 2000 there have been a few other changes: both groups, which include some riders from other colleges, now leave from New Haven; the southern group has added a number of communities to their itinerary; and the destination for the northern trek has relocated to Seattle, Washington.

Despite its expansion, HBC still functions along the same principles. Every rider has to generate a certain amount of money in pledges in order to take part, and that money goes toward building Habitat homes, mostly in New Haven. Students seek pledges in a variety of ways, including getting corporate sponsorship, soliciting friends and relatives and holding fundraising events. In 1995, the fundraising minimum was $2,500; now it is $3,500. This year HBC has raised about $200,000, which will go both to Habitat chapters based in New Haven and to chapters throughout the world that are part of the New Haven Sister Cities program.

A good way to help finance projects, the cross-country tour is also a chance to broaden Habitat’s network of supporters. The cyclists are lodged and fed by community sponsors at the roughly 60 overnight stops they make on the journey. Often they take advantage of the layover to present the promotional slide-show they carry with them, and, not infrequently, on their weekly day of rest they pitch in to help on a local Habitat project.

The northern route riders expect to have their grand-finale rendezvous at the Space Needle in Seattle on August 4, around 12:30 p.m. At about the same time, their colleagues to the south will cross the Golden Gate Bridge for a triumphal rally in San Francisco. For more information, call 1-800-HABITAT, ext. 2784 and leave a message for Marc Bush (north) or Josh Berezin (south).

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