Cyclists going 2,000 miles for 500,000 mealsArea News
-- Forty years ago, Dick Hansen and a group of friends rode bicycles from La Crosse to Dallas, Tex. – going 1,500 miles in 15 days. This week, he’ll take a similar journey. Hansen and three other area residents - Jerry Meras, Kevin Gjersten and Rod Loran - will ride their bikes 2,000 miles over 21 days from Huntington Beach, Cal., back to Woodbury to raise money for Feed My Starving Children.
By: Patrick Johnson - South Washington County Bulletin, Pierce County Herald
WOODBURY - Forty years ago, Dick Hansen and a group of friends rode bicycles from La Crosse to Dallas, Tex. – going 1,500 miles in 15 days. This week, he’ll take a similar journey.
Hansen and three other area residents - Jerry Meras, Kevin Gjersten and Rod Loran - will ride their bikes 2,000 miles over 21 days from Huntington Beach, Cal., back to Woodbury to raise money for Feed My Starving Children. Beginning on Aug. 11, the Miles 4 Meals team will begin cycling, approximately 100 miles per day, until reaching Woodbury on Saturday, Sept. 1.
“As I was getting prepared for this I realized it was 40 years ago that I was doing this too. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m getting a second opportunity to try this,” said Hanson, 60. “I like the organization as well. I’ve been involved with Feed My Starving Children the past two years. It’s one of the best organizations I’ve seen. The impact they have around the world is huge.”
According to the United Nations humanitarian program UNICEF, 18,000 children die from starvation or from hunger-related illnesses every day. Miles 4 Meals, a ministry of Woodbury’s Five Oaks Church, is hoping to raise $110,000 to produce 500,000 meals for Feed My Starving Children. The meals would feed 1,370 children every day for a full year.
“That’s the motivation,” Hansen said. “To think that we’re going to help a number of kids get a balanced meal once a day for a year is huge. I’ve seen pictures of the before and after and it’s amazing.”
Feed My Starving Children is a non-profit Christian organization. Volunteers hand pack rice- or potato-based meals specifically formulated for malnourished children. FMSC meals are distributed in nearly 70 countries through missionary partnerships at orphanages, schools, clinics, refugee camps and malnourishment centers.
“Feed My Starving Children’s goal this year is to pack 155,000,000 meals,” Hansen said. “That’s what we’re going to be a part of. We’re just a fraction of their goal.”
Meras, the Outreach Director for Five Oaks Church, created the Miles 4 Meals program to “fight world hunger by providing practical ways for anyone to help combat this horrific global epidemic.” For the past five years, Five Oaks Church has hosted a Feed My Starving Children “mobile packing event” in Woodbury. This year’s event will take place the first weekend of March 2013. With the costs of the ride itself fully funded, 100 percent of all donations made to Miles 4 Meals will go directly to Feed My Starving Children for the costs of the 500,000 meals, which will be packed in March.
“Jerry wanted the people in the church have a tangible way to have an impact,” Hansen said. “The ride is part of it. The people who are giving are a part of it. And, the people who will help pack the meals in March will be a part of it. There are people from all over – Woodbury, Cottage Grove and St. Paul – that come to the event.”
On its journey, the Miles 4 Meals team will travel through the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa on its return to Minnesota. To minimize operational costs, Miles 4 Meals partnered with 20 churches and organizations along the ride route, which will each house and feed the men for one evening, as the team makes its way across the country. Hansen, Meras and Loran will be on their bikes for the entire trip. Gjersten will drive the car and gear back from California while acting as mechanic and EMT.
“Jerry and Rod are marathon runners, but they’re pretty new to the bikes,” Hansen said. “This is going to be an interesting trip for them. We’re very positive and they’ve been doing their riding, but it’s going to be new to them. Kevin will be a huge part of our trip. He’ll be making sure we’re healthy and we’re listening to our bodies.”
Hansen said the climb up the mountains and the high altitudes of Colorado will be a challenge, as will the heat and humidity of the Midwest.
“We’re going to see a lot of things that we couldn’t prepare for here in the lowland,” Hansen said. “There’s going to be some dynamics, especially in the first five days, that will be new to us. We will need to listen to our bodies very close or else we’ll find ourselves in trouble. We don’t want to go there.”
Hansen said he started training for the ride last March. He began by building his core strength. Then, in April, he started cycling training in earnest, logging over 2,000 miles in that time.
“I rode a lot in college, but I didn’t do much cycling at all until the last two years,” Hansen said. “It’s just been in the last two years that I’ve gotten back onto the bike and getting into the idea of multiple-day rides.”
Hansen said he’s looking forward to the back stretch of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the lower part of the Rockies.
“I think we’re going to see some fantastic scenery,” Hansen said. “Being on Route 66 should be fun too. I think we’re going to be able to see some beautiful country and get a chance to interact with people along the way. I think it’s going to be cool.”