July 7, 2016
WORTHINGTON -- A team of cyclists facing the American road and the winds of the prairie on a cross-country campaign to raise money and awareness for adults with disabilities stopped Wednesday night in Worthington.
The campaign, called “PURSUIT FOR THOSE WITH disABILITIES,” consists of a 3,500-mile bike ride that began June 6 in Oregon and will finish Aug. 3 in Maryland.
“Your state has blessed us with more headwinds,” joked David Baldwin, the leader of Pursuit. “South Dakota gave us all it had, and Minnesota is continuing the trend.”
Baldwin is a long-time board member and volunteer at The Center, the organization that the ride will benefit. He also served as president for five years. Located in Houston, Texas, The Center offers services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I have never done anything like this before,” Baldwin said. “My wife and I have volunteered at (The Center). ... We are not real accomplished bike riders, but we’ve always wanted to do something that could help the local organization raise funds.”
The Center serves about 500 clients at two separate campuses in Houston, and Baldwin said it needs funds to continue expanding.
“We have a special arrangement with the city of Houston where we can buy our land from the city, and we have a very preferential price that we can buy it at, if we have the funds to do it,” he explained. “We’re going to buy the land that our campus sits on, and then we’re going to build a new campus.”
Baldwin and four others arrived in Worthington around 3 p.m. after their 69-mile ride from Sioux Falls, S.D. That segment was one of their shorter daily lengths; they have now traveled roughly 1,800 miles in just more than 30 days.
The group started with an $11 million goal, but now they have their eyes set on a new number.
“We just last night went over the $12 million mark, so our goal is $13.5 million,” Baldwin said. “We’re 30 days into our 60 day journey, and we’ve raised right at $12 million, so it makes the headwinds seem trivial, I guess.”
“It’ll probably take more than the $13 million that we’re raising, but this will allow us to buy the land, pay off all of our debt, and be in a really good position where, down the road, we can raise the rest of the funds to rebuild the campus.” he added.
In addition to raising money, Baldwin hopes to gain information from other facilities to take back to The Center.
“As we cross the country, we’re meeting with 31 other organizations like The Center,” he said. “We’re helping those organizations raise funds and sharing learning ideas.
“I wanted to learn from some of the best organizations across the country, how they help people with disabilities, so we can bring it back from Houston.”
There are more than 350 people working on the Pursuit campaign, and many are joining for various segments of the journey.
“I think it’s been incredible for us to have so many friends involved,” Baldwin said. “To have literally hundreds of our friends sign up to volunteer to help this has been pretty fun and overwhelmingly cool.”
Though the campaign is for The Center, Baldwin has found personal rewards in the ride.
“I’ve always wanted to ride my bike across the country,” he said. “It’s sort of an epic challenge, and it’s not easy, as I’m finding out.”
“I’m sort of at a mid-to-late point in my life and career, and I just said, ‘Hey, I’m taking two months off, I’m going to ride my bike across the country, I’m going to have fun, I’m going to do it with friends, I’m going to learn about this, and we’re going to try to make a difference,’” he said. “There’s a real personal challenge and personal benefit to it that I’m excited about.”
Baldwin also said he has enjoyed meeting new people from each state they cross.
“We really haven’t met anybody but nice people the whole way,” he said. “We engage every farmer and every person standing on the side of the road, so that’s been a real highlight.”
Though he has seen many differences in the people he has encountered, they all share a common ability to serve.
“Everybody can make a difference,” Baldwin said. “It just takes slowing down and getting off the routine.”
“You’ll find that it makes a big difference in yourself, also,” he continued. “Just the whole challenge of doing it and working and accomplishing something hard with friends is very rewarding.”