With only their feet, backpacks and pedals, Elon University seniors Amanda Steinman and Nick Suarez plan to bike nearly 4,000 miles to raise awareness for multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic, incurable nerve condition.
Their two-month trip starts June 1 in Yorktown,, just a few weeks after Elon's Class of 2017 graduation, in Yorktown, Virginia, and concludes Aug. 1 in San Francisco. The trip is hosted by the organization Bike the U.S. for MS, a fundraising group that donates their profits to research in order to facilitate finding a cure for multiple sclerosis.
The organization grants those the opportunity to "improve other people's lives while participating in an adventure that will change yours."
Inspired by a video from the organization's website, Steinman and Suarez originally joked about biking across the country, but after applying to the program and starting their GoFundMe, they are now determined and committed to the cause.
"We've been biking about 10 to 20 miles every day, and we will increase our mileage as we physically progress in preparation for the 60 to 100 hundred miles we will have to bike each day in the summer," Steinman said.
Participants can choose from a variety of routes that span the country, or can complete segments of the journey along the way. The Yorktown to San Francisco route that Steinman and Suarez will take is the TransAmerica route, but other routes include the Pacific Coast and Northern and Southern Tiers.
All money raised is donated to U.S.-based MS research facilities around the country dedicated to the care of patients and their families.
Steinman and Suarez will be the first Elon students to volunteer with Bike the U.S. for MS, and they hope that other students, graduates and the university will get involved.
"It's a great opportunity to see the country, to get in shape and to help others," Suarez said.
The seniors hope to raise $8,000 through their GoFundMe page, which was activated two weeks ago, but have pledged to raise at least $4,000 dollars — $1 for every mile they will bike.
"Aside from asking our friends and families for donations, we plan on hosting some fundraisers and events throughout the school year to engage the Elon community while reaching our goal," Suarez said.
But raising the money will not be the most difficult part of their journey.
On their TransAmerica trip, the bikers will experience a variety of landscapes, altitudes and climates, from the Midwestern plains to the Colorado Rockies, while setting up camp every night.
"We'll be mainly sleeping in tents, but churches and schools will also host us," Steinman said. "It will definitely be difficult, but it's worth it."
Throughout their journey, they will volunteer with a variety of organizations supporting MS research, as well as directly helping patients and their families.
"We're excited for the experience and we hope to meet a lot of new people," Suarez said. "We want to hear their life stories while spreading awareness for MS along the way."
Some of these opportunities include helping MS patients with yard work, home renovations, ramp installments and painting — tasks that are typically difficult for those with the condition.
"We've got a long journey ahead of us, but we're excited and ready for the experience," Steinman said.