Pete Zeidner, a 1986 Kent State graduate, was not expected to live when he was born with cerebral palsy. Now, 54 years later, he has raised more than half a million dollars for CP research.
Zeidner, an avid bicyclist who use to ride 60 to 80 miles a day, established Pedal-with-Pete in 1993 to raise money for CP research.
Because of a 1999 car accident that cost him 80 percent of his body function, he is now in a wheelchair. He can no longer cycle, but he still supports his organization’s mission to raise money for CP research.
When Craig Zamary, Kent State College of Business entrepreneur-in-residence, first found out about Zeidner’s organization, he said he was excited to support its mission.
“[Zeidner] is an awesome, awesome guy,” Zamary said. “He’s tough, he’s resilient and he’s really driven. I told him he’s the toughest social entrepreneur in America.”
Zamary said he took Victor Newman, a senior entrepreneurship major who needed to complete his practicum project, to meet with Zeidner and see what was going on with the foundation.
Pedal-with-Pete will sponsor a cycling event in Kent this summer, and Zamary said that is a great place for students to volunteer and get involved with the organization.
“We are hoping national media will pick up on our story,” Zeidner said. “We need more help in marketing Pedal-with-Pete and in contacting potential corporate sponsors with professional documents.”
The event will begin June 9 at 7 a.m. Participants will raise money to support Pedal-with-Pete and will participate in a 17-, 40- or 60-mile bike ride. A two- and six-mile family-friendly bike-and-hike will also be offered.
“[Every entrepreneurship student] has to do a practicum project to get a feel of what it is we want to do after graduation,” Newman said.
Zamary said the practicum can be a business plan, feasibility analysis or a market research study, among other things.
“It wasn’t a very traditional practicum, but it has already gained a lot of attention,” Zamary said.
Newman decided to take on the project, and he began his work last semester.
“I found there hadn’t been any grassroots marketing or major publicity, even though in 17 years he’s raised over half a million dollars,” Newman said. “I don’t know how to design a website or conduct a professional interview, so I decided to bring all those fields together for him.”
Newman said he worked with senior entrepreneurship major Chris Lintner, senior news major Simon Husted and Diego Brito, visual communication design graduate student, to produce a video interview with Zeidner.
Zeidner said the students also helped gather attention for the organization by creating a landing page at Kent State that led readers to the Pedal-with-Pete website for information about volunteering and donating.
“[I started] the foundation because CP is way underfunded, and you never hear about CP research like you do for [multiple sclerosis] or spinal cord injuries, and I thought that there should be more funding for research,” Zeidner said in the video interview the students created, which is viewable on the Pedal-with-Pete website.
According to Zeidner’s website, cerebral palsy is “a non-progressive neuromuscular disorder that disrupts a person’s ability to move, sit, stand, walk, talk and use their hands.”
Newman said he originally came to Kent State as a pre-med student, but quickly found he enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the entrepreneurship program.
Now, his plans are to graduate and work at a nonprofit, probably a hospital, for several years. Then, he said he wants to start his own nonprofit and work on his own.
“I found the project for myself very rewarding,” Newman said. “It’s really hard to complain about my life when I look at Pete. His desire to help people and raise money for cerebral palsy research is outstanding.”
Though Newman’s practicum ended in December, Zamary said he hopes Kent State students will continue to be involved in the organization. He also said that March is cerebral palsy awareness month.
“This wasn’t designed to be a one-time project and ‘see you later, Pete,’” Zamary said. “It was designed to be sustainable and get other departments on campus to get involved and help with Pete’s foundation.”
Contact Lindsey Sager at [email protected]