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May 7, 2004
by Dana Wallace
When you're an older brother to three sisters, you grow up exposed to just as many Barbie dolls as basketballs. So it makes sense that when Ada, Mich., native Chad Anderson returned to Baylor this past fall with a desire to get involved in the local community, he found a comfortable fit as a mentor with Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Central Texas.
"I've always had a passion to help kids, especially kids who are missing a key mentor in their life," Anderson said. "It's a relationship that's really important in the development of their character."
Little did the Baylor sophomore know that his modest journey would lead to a much bigger quest to begin this month -- a cross-country bicycle trip raising money and awareness to provide more mentors for local youth needing a role model.
Volunteering at BBBS allowed Anderson to express his love for working with children, but it also made him aware of an unmet need. Some 100 children -- many like the young boy he mentors in the BBBS program -- are on a waiting list for a mentor. To help, the entrepreneurship/finance major combined his longtime dream of traveling across the United States by bicycle with the creation of the "Bike America 2K4" fund-raiser.
To get the idea rolling, Anderson enlisted his roommate, Drew Mitchell, as fund-raising partner and traveling companion. The degrees the two students are pursuing make this an ideal project for the duo. Mitchell, a sports sponsorship and sales major who serves as sophomore class vice president, helped draft and pass a bill in Student Congress in support of the ride and fund-raiser, which is the sophomore class philanthropy project and has the support of Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr.
Anderson and Mitchell hope those expressions of campus support will aid them as they call on area businesses in raising money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. They plan to ride 3,784 miles this summer and raise pledges of $10 for each mile for a total of $37,840. They say all money raised will go to the local BBBS chapter.
When Anderson first approached local BBBS executive director Sarah Collins about the ride, he said she was excited.
"She didn't really know how to respond," Anderson said. "Not too many people have come up to her and asked to do that kind of thing."
Anderson said Collins is raising funds through some of her contacts, and he has received additional references from Baylor faculty with business contacts in the Waco area.
Collins believes the bicycle ride is important both for the money it will raise and the awareness it will bring to the community. Unlike grants, which may be awarded for very specific purposes, funds raised through Bike America 2K4 may be used at the discretion of the organization. Collins says this can include monthly activities for children and their mentors as well as for children waiting for a mentor. The money also may be used for public service advertising to bring awareness to the community of the need for mentors.
"I want everybody to be able to find (a mentor like) Chad," Collins said. She points out that many children on the waiting list for mentors have been there for a year, and that the young boy who gained Anderson as a mentor waited two years for the opportunity. Collins said she doesn't want that to be the reality for others.
As two Baylor business majors, Anderson and Mitchell have found the fund-raising experience not unlike something they'll experience in their future -- a little pounding the pavement, persistence, phone calls, patience, and putting together presentation packets. They are seeking donations right up to the time they leave May 17, and say donors can contribute at any time during the ride as well.
The two will start the ride from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, north of Mitchell's hometown of Porterville, Calif. They say their journey should begin without much fanfare, unless they're able to get publicity in connection with a Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter in California.
The cross-country ride should last about 50 days and take Anderson and Mitchell along mostly rural routes, coming to an end in Yorktown, Va.
The two men plan to get early starts, take numerous breaks and ride almost 80 miles a day. Their trip has been plotted with the help of a web site containing routes that other bicyclists have used.
While the trip may be physically rigorous, the two men began training seriously only a couple of months ago. They ride resistance bikes at the McLane Student Life Center, and Anderson takes to the open road, often riding 25 miles a day. Both men come from athletic backgrounds, and Mitchell has previous experience with long distance riding.
To cover personal expenses on their trip, Anderson and Mitchell have sent letters of support to family and friends. To save on costs, they've enlisted the aid of the Baylor Alumni Association, which has agreed to let University alumni know of the upcoming ride. The men hope to stay either with Baylor graduates or at campsites along the way.
Anderson and Mitchell also plan to keep a journal of their experiences during the cross-country journey, with regularly updated entries available at http://pr.baylor.edu.
When he returns from his summer ride across America, Anderson should have some interesting stories to tell Simon, his 13-year-old younger brother through the BBBS program. Almost five months have passed since the two were paired through the program, and they're beginning to open up to each other a little more. They've been to the movies, a Baylor basketball game and make frequent trips for ice cream.
Those in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program make mentor commitments for a year, but Anderson said he plans to continue beyond that. After all, Simon is the one who inspired this much bigger journey.
The greatest change Collins said she's seen in Simon as a result of having Anderson as his mentor is that Simon has become more confident and outgoing.
"We do this to make a difference in one child's life. The results are exponential," she said. Collins believes the positive effects made on children in the mentor program are seen in the classroom and extend to teachers, family and friends.
Anderson hopes people will see his journey with Simon and be inspired to help children like him.
"They need those mentors," Anderson said. "I'm hoping this can help bring awareness to the community."
Donations to support Big Brothers Big Sisters through the cross-country bike trip may be made on the agency web site at www.bbbscentraltx.org/bikeamerica.html, or by mail at 1905 Washington Avenue, Waco, TX 76701.