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The long ride home

Students bike 3,859 miles for affordable housing

The cross-country fundraising trip started out during an afternoon spin with her dad. "I hadn't biked in ten years," said Elana Bannerman, '05, then in her first year at Dartmouth. "I nearly fell off the bike, so we kept to the back streets."

Elana Bannerman
Elana Bannerman '05 will join a group of students on a cross-country trip to raise money for affordable housing. The trip, sponsored by the independent non-profit corporation Bike and Build, includes presentations at each stop to raise public awareness. (photo by Katie Van Syckle '05)

After years of training, Bannerman's trips with her parents-both avid cyclists from Montclair, N.J.---grew to more than 100 miles though the Massachusetts Berkshire hills in a single day. "It was arduous, to be honest," she confessed. But this summer, she will join a group of Dartmouth students, including Aaron Brown '05, Allison Caffrey '06, Ryan Delaney '05, Victoria Glazer '06, Shirlasia Patterson '06 and Vikram Tiku '05, for a much longer bike trip. They will each ride up to 120 miles a day, from Portsmouth, N.H., to Vancouver, British Columbia-3,859 miles in all-to raise thousands of dollars for affordable housing.

This is the third year Dartmouth students will participate in "Bike and Build," a cross-country ride to raise awareness of and funds for affordable housing. "Hopefully much of our money will go to Dartmouth's Habitat house," Bannerman explained. "Habitat for Humanity's Dartmouth chapter tries to encourage Dartmouth riders to go because we will help designate where some of the money we raise will go in grants."

Bike and Build  is an independent nonprofit corporation that sponsors bicycle fundraising trips for young adults. Its trips are open to men and women, 18-24 years old, each of whom raises $4,000 in contributions from sponsors. Bike and Build in turn makes grants to agencies, including Habitat, who are involved in creating affordable housing for low income Americans. In return, Bike and Build arranges routes, meals and lodging at churches, schools, community centers and campsites along the way. The organization also provides each rider with a new bicycle.

Bannerman counts $2,500 in cash and another $500 in pledges towards her $4,000 fundraising goal. "I called a lot of my family members, sent out letters to people I went to high school with, to people in my synagogue. Other donors saw an article about my trip in the local Montclair newspaper.

"One rider last year raised $10,000, but promoting the message is also important," said Bannerman. "At each stop we give a presentation about the need for affordable housing. We also help build houses at Habitat sites." The total trip, passing through more than a dozen northern states, will take from June 18 to Aug. 20.

"I thought it would be wonderful, to take a summer off before starting work in the fall, to help benefit a cause or the community. It was really a shock to learn that when it is 30 degrees below zero-as it often is in New Hampshire and Vermont-people don't have heat, hot water, bathrooms and showers. I can't imagine what that would be like.

"The more I learn about the problem of affordable housing," Bannerman added, "the more important I believe it is for people to be thinking about. Not having the proper place to come home to really impacts the rest of your life."

By PETER WALSH

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Last Updated: 12/17/08