Biking to improve the nation's affordable housing crisis

Four University students will embark on a cross-country cycling trip with Bike&Build


Second-year Engineering student Sunny Sowards will join three University students in biking across the United States this summer to raise awareness about the country’s affordable housing crisis.

Four University students will spend May through August biking across America with Bike & Build, an organization which aims to raise awareness of the country’s affordable housing crisis. The students will cycle across 4,000 miles total, beginning in Virginia Beach and ending in Cannon Beach, Ore.

“It’s pretty much my whole summer, which is great because it means were doing an average of like 50 to 70 miles a day,” second-year Engineering student Sunny Sowards said. “It really gives you time to experience the entirety of the U.S.”

In each town they visit, participants will give presentations and raise money to improve the nation’s housing crisis. The group will also stop in several towns for a full day and work with the local Habitat for Humanity organizations.

“There’s the fundraising and advocating side, and we’ll allocate grants along the way — which is just monetary and educational — and then there’s also the building that we do,” fourth-year College student Katelyn Woodward said. “The building days are kind of break days three or four times throughout the summer.”

Before signing on for the trip, students were required to raise a total of $4,500. During the trip, $500 of this money is given to each of the 33 riders, who will donate it to an affordable housing initiative of their choice. The leftover money goes toward competitive grants, which are awarded to people who apply for them through Bike & Build.

“It’s really cool to take such an active role in the [distribution of] the money,” fourth-year Engineering student Katherine Karg said. “Not only are you raising the money and learning more about the cause, but you also have to figure out what you think is most important and what you see is most empowering to give money to.”

Karg and Sowards are both members of Alpha Phi Omega, the University’s service fraternity, where they learned about the Bike & Build program through other members who have participated in the past.

“Several of my brothers have done it in the past and they’ve always just recounted it as being the best experience that they’ve ever had,” Sowards said. “After learning more about it, I just knew I couldn’t really pass the opportunity up.”

Karg, who was an active cyclist in high school, saw the list of routes offered by Bike & Build and was immediately drawn to the program.

“Someone posted it as their [Facebook] status as soon as they had gotten accepted [into a Bike & Build program], so I went to the site and I was just drooling over the routes,” Karg said.

Woodward was introduced to the program through her volunteer work at a shelter downtown and internship with Habitat for Humanity. After learning about the work Build & Build does to raise awareness about the affordable housing crisis, she found it was an opportunity she could not pass up.

“When I was working for Habitat for Humanity, I saw that it was a cool way to go to different places, and ever since then it’s been on my mind,” Woodward said. “This is a great opportunity for me to feel like I’m really making a positive and sustainable impact.”

Although a large portion of the trip is dedicated to cycling, the trip is not restricted to people with significant biking experience. Bike & Build attracts students from universities and colleges all around the United States who are ready for a challenge and excited about the work they are doing.

“I think there’s a large mental part where as long as you’re enthused about the day ahead of you, I think it’s going to be fine,” Karg said. “I’m really excited and I think that the people that it tends to attract are people that are highly motivated to get out and do this and explore the country.”

Published April 22, 2014 in Life

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