Woodward, Okla. —
By Rowynn Ricks
A local college student will be cycling across the country this summer in an effort to help others across the globe.
LeAnn Yadon, 21, along with several other adventure-seeking volunteers, will make an 8-week bike trek from Seattle to New York City to help support the efforts of the international humanitarian organization Venture Expeditions.
ABOUT VENTURE EXPEDITIONS
"They do runs and biking expeditions and hiking expeditions to raise awareness and funds for their missions in Southeast Asia," Yadon said of Venture Expeditions.
Essentially, she said, "the biking trip is a publicity thing, where we'll have the opportunity to stop and talk at communities along the way about the Venture Expeditions' mission."
Yadon said this mission includes sponsoring community centers in Thailand and Burma, where the poor and victims of violence can go to seek assistance.
"They help provide them with food, school supplies, and just whatever needs these people may have," she said.
According to the Venture Expeditions website, ventureexpeditions.org, the organization also partners with other agencies such as Convoy of Hope, Blood:Water Mission, and International Justice Mission, supporting their programs to offer additional assistance to those in need in Southeast Asia.
In addition, Yadon said that Venture "sends missionaries into these areas, because it is a gospel-based program, so they do share the gospel with those they help."
MAKING A SACRIFICE
Yadon said she appreciates the unique way that Venture Expeditions promotes its humanitarian efforts through programs like the cross-country bike trek.
"I think they have such a great outlook on how to raise awareness of their mission," she said. "Because it's actively giving of yourself. You're not just giving money, but you're getting out and doing something. I really think I just love the active aspect of it."
But when it comes to making an approximately 3,200 mile journey by bicycle, Yadon said it is even more than just taking action. It's making a sacrifice.
"I'm really drawn to the challenge. Because biking across America is really daunting. But I like how it is part of their mission to ask us to physically sacrifice ourselves as we try to help people in Thailand, who are facing even greater struggles on a daily basis," she said.
Those struggles include everything from hunger and "unsanitary housing conditions" to domestic violence and human trafficking, she said.
"So for me to bike across America, I think that's such a small feat compared to what they go through every day," Yadon said.
And it is in thinking about those who her journey will help that she finds her inspiration for taking on the long and daunting bike ride.
"It's a lot more motivating to know I'm doing this for someone else," she said.
HOW YADON BECAME A PART OF THE EXPEDITION
While she is now inspired by the knowledge that she will be helping others, Yadon said her original inspiration for getting involved with Venture Expeditions was boredom.
"It's kind of a funny story actually," she said. "This past summer I was in Woodward and not taking any classes or anything and I was just kind of bored. So I started thinking of fun stuff to do this next summer. And I had a friend who had done this before, she did the Venture Expeditions trip last summer, so I decided to look into it. So I googled Venture Expeditions and I applied and I was accepted."
While she is someone who enjoys bike rides, Yadon said that before getting into the Venture Expeditions program, she had never traveled more than about 20 miles by bicycle.
In fact, she said she had to get a new bike just for the trip.
"I didn't have a road bike before so I had to get one that was kind of made for long distance riding on roads and highways," she said.
In addition, Yadon had to start training so that she could get used to pedaling for longer distances.
And after training for the past 5 months, she said, "The longest that I've gone in a day is about 75 miles, which is right where I should be with training."
That's because during the trip, "they say we'll average about 75 miles a day. But that means some days will be around 100 miles and some days about 50," she said.
However, going the longer distances hasn't been the hardest part of training for Yadon.
"The hardest thing has been finding the time. Biking 75 miles takes a lot of hours, but I'm also trying to balance going to work and classes," she said.
A 2011 Woodward graduate, Yadon is now a junior at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater where she is studying human nutrition with a pre-med option.
"It's really everyday that we're supposed to be biking, but the hardest part is making the time to get those miles in," she said.
It helps being in a college town though, where she can get in some of her miles by biking around the community, she said.
And since starting her training, Yadon said she has discovered that "there really are a lot of different places where you can bike in Oklahoma."
She said she has even taken her bike down to Oklahoma City where she has ridden along the river route through Bricktown.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
But besides training for the trip, Yadon said she also has had to make time to try to raise funds to pay for the trip.
"Each individual on the tour has to raise at least $5,000," she said. "Of that, $1,000 is a straight donation to the mission and the other $4,000 goes toward covering the costs for everything we might need for the trip."
Those trip costs include all the food and water she will need on the trip, any lodging costs, as well as helping to pay for maintenance of the bike throughout the trip and fuel costs for a support van that will follow along and offer the bikers a place to take breaks along the journey, she said.
You can support Yadon by making a donation online through the ventureexpeditions.org website.
"They can go to the website and click the link to donate, then there will be a drop down box where they can click on my name as a participate and give online," she said.
If you would like to learn more about Yadon's upcoming expedition, you can read her blog at leannelizabethyadon.wordpress.com.
"I have the Venture Expeditions website link on my blog. And I also did a TEDx talk at OSU about the trip and posted the video on it on my blog as well," she said.
And if you would like to know how her trip goes this summer, Yadon said she plans to post updates on her blog throughout the expedition.