Two Massachusetts men found rest and refreshment Monday night in Fort Wayne midway into their 3,500-mile bicycle trip from Boston to San Francisco to raise money for the nonprofit Children's Hunger Fund of Mission Hills, Calif.
Jon Korhonen and Andy McCarron, both 25 and University of Massachusetts graduates, have a big heart for giving and wanted to help raise money to feed hungry children in the U.S. and in war-torn countries around the world, said Dawn White of Fort Wayne. Also a UMass alum, she hosted the men overnight.
“They said they would set up a tent in my yard, and I said, ‘No way. You're going to sleep in a bed,' ” she said. The men have raised nearly $15,000 so far.
Korhonen was surprised to hear Fort Wayne is home to the largest population of Burmese refugees in the nation. Children's Hunger Fund is in the process of getting food to victims of Cyclone Nargis that devastated Burma in early May.
One penny a day can help save the life of a child who has gone days or weeks without food, according to Korhonen's and McCarron's Web site at www.Coast2Coastcycle.org. The pair left Boston Harbor on June 14 and plans to arrive in San Francisco by July 23.
They are averaging 100 miles a day, and came to Fort Wayne from Stow, in northeast Ohio. Today they head to Valparaiso, then to Aurora, Ill. The men have slept in back yards, a firehouse and churches, and donations come from individuals and businesses who hear about their trip and whom they meet along the way.
“We're planning to be in Cedar Rapids (Iowa) by Friday,” Korhonen said. A friend who lives there will host them, but the men have asked her to check their route to ensure the roads they plan to travel are not under water. Much of eastern Iowa, along the Mississippi, has been devastated by record flooding for more than a week.
With 99 percent of all revenue of the faith-based, non-denominational charity going directly to the care of needy children, Forbes magazine has rated Children's Hunger Fund as one of the most efficient U.S. charities. That was one reasons the men were drawn to the charity, they said.
“I was kind of hoping to get to $15,000, but now that we're close, I guess we should get a new goal.” Korhonen said.
He has a bachelor's degree in communication and is assistant director of undergraduate admissions and assistant coach of the UMass men's cross-country/track-and-field programs. McCarron holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering and was captain of the UMass cross-country team in 2004 and holds the school record in the mile-run (4:04).
“We're runners by trade, but we're both kind of getting into biking now that we're post-collegiate athletes,” said Korhonen. “After this (trip), I think it'll definitely be biking.”