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Going the distance

Bike to Uganda’s annual event turns stationary workouts into funds for schools

The bikes in front of Clark Hall last week may have been stationary, but on them University students cycled toward a worthy goal: building a school in Kampala, Uganda.

For the past seven years, the University chapter of Building Tomorrow has coordinated Bike to Uganda, an event that raises funds to build schools for children in the East African country.

Students contributed $5 for one half-hour shift, or $8 for a weeklong pass to cycle on the bikes. From March 26 to March 29, Bike to Uganda coordinators tracked the number of miles students cycled in hopes of logging the distance from U.Va. to Uganda, which clocks in at a lengthy 7,354 miles.

“We’re currently working on building our second school, and we’re about $13,000 away,” said first-year College student Hayley Wellner, the group’s marketing coordinator.

Past Bike to Uganda events already helped fund the construction of a school in Kampala, the nation’s capital. The school, the Academy of Gita, merited a visit from former president Bill Clinton in July 2012.

“It’s really great to see the progress, the pictures and how happy the children are to be to going to school,” Wellner said.

This year the event featured both entertainment and friendly competition. Cav Man, the Sil’hooettes and a disc jockey made appearances throughout the week — accompanied by free coffee and a Stella & Dot jewelry trunk show.

And the University’s Greek community also got involved, incorporating the event into Derby Days, Sigma Chi fraternity’s national philanthropy featuring competitions between sororities. Sororities that sent the most bikers and raised the most money for the Bike to Uganda cause earned points in the Derby Days contest.

Although snowy weather cancelled Monday’s cycling sessions, the event this year brought in more participants than it has in the past, said fourth-year College student Katherine Lambertson, who has volunteered for the event since her first year.

Although Building Tomorrow raises the money, the schools that are built are ultimately designed by students in the Architecture School, said first-year College student Jessica Guthrie, vice president of events for the organization. Students working on the schools travel to Uganda themselves, providing a unique opportunity to gain experience with hands-on construction training and design work.

Their main event now complete, Building Tomorrow plans to continue its efforts to raise money for school construction in Kampala. The group has arranged for Sigma Pi fraternity to donate proceeds from its annual Surf and Turf philanthropy event to Bike to Uganda, and planning for the organization’s annual fall benefit concert, Rock to Uganda, is already underway.

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