Yale Students Bicycle Cross-Country on Habitat Fundraiser

Renovating houses for clients of Habitat for Humanity may be a lot easier work than riding a bicycle cross-country on a fundraising tour for Habitat for Humanity, at least for the 60 students, mostly from Yale, participating this year.

Now in its ninth year, the Habitat Bicycle Challenge (HBC) is the brainchild of a Yale student who instituted the event while riding solo from New Haven to Habitat headquarters in Georgia.

The nine-week bike-a-thon raises awareness as well as money for the non-profit organization. HBC officially began in 1995, when a group of Yale students left Washington, D.C, on a 4,000-mile journey to San Francisco.

The program’s popularity grew and 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 also 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.

HBC still functions along the same principles, despite its growth. Every rider must raise 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 sponsorships, 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 $180,000, 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.

The cross-country tour is a good way to help finance projects and provides a chance to broaden Habitat’s network of supporters. Cyclists are lodged and fed by community sponsors at roughly 60 overnight stops that they make on their journey. Often they take advantage of layovers 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 1 p.m., 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 Mike Gutner (south) or Adam Nyberg (north), or visit the HBC Web site at http://www.yale.edu/habitat. Media for the south route may contact Gutner directly on his cell phone at 203-887-8291.