Taking a scenic route through the South’s back roads, three students traveled 650 miles on a bike to raise money for the Boggy Creek Gang Camp. This camp, located in Eustis, serves children with chronic or terminal illnesses.
USF pre-med students, Matt Buckler, Josh Richardson and Chris Smith, departed from Eustis on May 1 and spent five days on a rotating schedule with a bike, all the way to Randleman, N.C. Stephanie Kokseng and Kyle Reep assisted the group by raising funds.
“We wanted to raise awareness and money for the camp,” Richardson said.
Richardson and Smith had served as camp counselors for the Boggy Creek Gang last year after Richardson heard about the volunteer opportunity at a pre-med meeting.
“For the counselors, there is a rigorous interviewing process, application process and of course a background check,” Smith said. “So they retain good people who are really qualified to be counselors.”
During his time as a counselor, Smith was impressed by how well organized the camp was. He said the staff is “top notch.”
Though they enjoyed their experiences as counselors, the group decided they wanted to do something more for the Boggy Creek kids.
“I believe if someone has a unique ability, they should use it to give back to society,” Smith said.
Smith also said the three of them were physically fit, and they wanted to use that to their advantage. Richardson said he got the idea of riding a bike to raise money from his uncle, who once cycled across the country. So when he and his friends decided to do something for the kids at Boggy Creek, they all agreed that taking a sponsored bike ride would be a good idea.
However, the trip started off with many difficulties, Richardson said.
“We had three flat tires in the first mile,” Richardson said. “And then five more that day.”
Finally, after fixing numerous flat tires, the group realized it was the inner tube inside the tire that was the problem and they replaced it.
Their troubles didn’t end there. Soon after, one of the bikes “gave out,” Richardson said. This left three people and one bike, so the three men took turns riding the bike for 10 miles each, while another person drove and the last person who rode recuperated in the car. Richardson said he thinks that system sped up their trip, which they completed in five days.
The trip wasn’t all that bad, though. Besides feeling good about knowing their efforts were helping the children, Richardson said the trip benefited him in another way.
“Because we took back roads, it was cool being in the countryside,” Richardson said.
Smith agreed, though he was more surprised by what he saw. He said in some places, it looked more like a Third World country than the southern United States.
“I was expecting beautiful, open fields and unique houses,” Smith said.
Instead, he said he saw abandoned, rusting buildings. He said he thinks this is because no one used the back roads, 301 and 601 after I-95 was built.
Kokseng headed up the fund-raiser for the group by trying to get corporate sponsors, putting up flyers in hospitals and asking local organizations to sponsor them.
Richardson said they decided not to ask for a per-mile fee, but instead a flat amount from their sponsors.
The group had aimed to raise $10,000, but came up quite short of the goal. Kokseng said it was difficult to get people to take them seriously. Still, she said the experience will help her if she ever decides to do similar work in the future.
To raise more money, the group is holding an auction over USF’s listserv. They are auctioning off two Princeton Review Prep classes that can help prepare students for the GRE, the GMAT or the LSAT.
Smith, Richradson and Kokseng agreed it was important to help the people at Boggy Creek. “The camp gives children with chronic and terminal illnesses a chance to have a normal camp experience,” Smith said. “They can still participate at a level where they can feel the same as anyone else, and that must give them a mental relief.”