When Vietnam veteran Don Child and three Boy Scouts started their bike ride across the country a month and a half ago, they were just getting to know each other. After trekking nearly 2,400 miles through six states, they've grown as a team, as people and as bike riders. And they've raised a substantial amount of money for a worthy cause.
On July 31, the group stopped at Legion Post 215 in LaGrange, Ind., where it raised nearly $4,000 in donations for the Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program, and were welcomed with a warm embrace from Legionnaires and locals.
As part of Bike Trip America, the team has strafed the northern border of the United States on their bikes, beginning on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Astoria, Ore., and finishing the ride Aug. 15 on the Atlantic coastline in New York City. At each stop along the way, they've raised money for OCW, having totaled about $11,000 in donations for the Legion's flagship charity that provides comfort items to wounded warriors at VA medical centers and military medical facilities.
"It’s the trip of a lifetime," said Bryce Nurding, founder of Bike Trip America and trip organizer.
The team, which consists of Child and three Scouts from Venturing Crew 255 in Astoria - Nurding, Jonathan Williams and Ryan Tallman - began the journey on June 18. They've averaged around 70 miles a day, riding through high elevations and seeing the sights that decorate the country's northern boundary line.
At Day 44 of the 59-day journey, the team had already surpassed its goal of raising $10,000 for OCW. This was due in large part to the generosity of Legionnaires, and Sons and Auxiliary members they've encountered along the way, who have been quick to donate or just offer a warm place to sleep and shower.
As part of the fundraising efforts, Legion Riders hosted a rib dinner at Post 215 in honor of the team, donating all proceeds from the meal to OCW. The post's Auxiliary unit donated several hundred dollars, and Post 215 matched all of the money raised that evening.
"It’s been a very, very positive reaction to this," Post 215 Commander David Arrington said. "All of our different organizations here, our Auxiliary and our Sons, everyone has wanted to jump in and contribute."
The team started with a $1,000 donation from Astoria Post 12, which helped charter the trip. Since then, donations have poured in from Legion posts and Legion family members throughout each leg of the journey.
Nurding said highlights of the trip thus far have included selling root beer floats for donations with a Legion post in a parade in Lewistown, Mont., and water skiing and tubing with hosts on Lake Michigan.
"We’ve been in parades and fundraisers for Operation Comfort Warriors," Nurding said. "The Legion takes us all over the place."
The team is currently winding its way through northern Ohio, along Lake Erie, and will eventually ride through northern Pennsylvania and into New York State.
For Child, the trip represents a coming-full-circle milestone in his life. Child says he's taken great delight in knowing that he's once again, at almost 70 years old, helping wounded warriors as he once did as a combat medic in Vietnam. He says he has also found fulfillment in mentoring his young travel companions, an homage to his late father who used to invite city kids to spend summers at his family's cattle ranch in Colorado.
"We’re doing more than just biking across the country," Child said. "We’re helping the kids grow. We’re helping Operation Comfort Warriors as a fundraiser. We’re learning about ourselves and what it means to develop a team."