Last year, Stacy Sprewer graduated from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with a double major in communications and visual art. Then she got a job.
But what she really wanted was an adventure.
"I had always been into biking," she says, "and I wanted to bike across America, but I didn't just want to do it for myself."
Sprewer found Philadelphia-based nonprofit Bike & Build, which organizes cycling tours for young people who help build affordable housing along the way.
Sprewer — whose employer, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, was agreeable to her plans — signed up. Now she needs to raise at least $4,500. The money goes for expenses, the new bike that she'll ride on the trip, and charitable donations. She's already raised more than $3,300 by selling her artwork, baked goods and her mom's homemade Filipino egg rolls, and by doing chores like dog-walking and house-painting.
On May 17, she'll begin her 72-day tour from North Carolina to San Diego. Sprewer, whose longest ride was previously 64 miles on a mountain bike, will need to average around 70 miles per day on her new road bike. She'll ride with around 30 others and work on 11 homes along the way, including one in Colorado Springs being built by Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity. Habitat's development director, Andy Petersen, says his organization has long worked with Bike & Build.
"They get a lot of work done over a short period of time," he says.
Justin Villere, director of operations and outreach for Bike & Build, says about 50 percent of the money brought in by riders goes to the ride itself, another 10 percent goes to overhead, and about 40 percent goes to charity. The average rider raises about $4,900. Last year, Bike & Build gave over $620,000 to about 350 affordable housing nonprofits chosen by the riders.
Bike & Build offers eight cross-country and two regional rides each summer for riders ages 18 to 25. Belongings are carried by shuttle, and riders are given shelter each night at "community partner" agencies, such as churches.
Villere says the experience is something that sticks with people their entire lives.
"We're very intentional about our age range," he says. "We want to make sure these riders are having the experience that helps them to stay civically engaged and active long after their Bike & Build summer."