Kent State student takes charity trek across U.S.

Christina Stavale

For Kent State nutrition major Katie Spotz, biking is more than a way of staying in shape. It is her way of helping the thousands of Americans each year suffering from lung disease.

Through mountains, valleys, forests and farmlands, 40 bikers, including Spotz, completed a cross-country trip this summer that most people can only dream of. The fundraiser was sponsored by the American Lung Association.

From June 26 to August 12, riders biked 3,300 miles through 12 different states. Known as The Big Ride, the trip gave dedicated individuals a chance to bike from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

Each of the bikers, ages 16 to 71, were required to raise $5,500 in sponsorship. Xerox sponsored $2,000 for Spotz, while she collected the rest of her money from local businesses, friends and family. Overall, The American Lung Association managed to raise $25,000 for lung disease from this event.

“Going into the race, I was nervous and excited,” Spotz said. “It was such a large amount of money to raise, and I didn’t know any one else participating.”

Her enthusiasm for the cause and her passion for biking, however, guided her throughout the ride.

Spotz learned about The Big Ride through the American Lung Association’s Web site. After watching both of her grandmothers suffer from lung disease, Spotz knew that she wanted to participate in order to help others suffering from the same things.

“There are so many different kinds of lung disease, from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” said DeWeese Health Center nurse Joyce Schroder. “As busy as students are with their studies, I think it’s great that people are still willing to go out of their way to help those in need.”

Spotz began biking as a way to stay in shape because it was easier on her body than running. Last semester, she biked from Kent State to her home in Mentor on the weekends to prepare and train for The Big Ride. She biked 100-250 miles a week.

“It really is the best of both worlds, to do something you love, and at the same time, help others,” she said.

The Big Ride was a 48-day event, with 40 days of biking and eight days of rest. The riders stopped in cities such as Billings, Montana; Madison, Wisconsin; Burton, Ohio and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

On a typical day, they woke up at 6 a.m. and were on the road by 7:30 a.m. Depending on the length and difficulty of that day’s course, they finished between noon and 5 p.m. after biking an average of 83 miles a day.

While on the road, Spotz and the other riders faced many challenges.

“During the first three days in Washington, there were record high temperatures. It even reached 115 degrees one day,” she said.

Other challenges included mountainous terrain, high winds and bugs. With these challenges, however, came the chance to experience firsthand the many beautiful landscapes across the United States. Spotz said her favorites include “the bad lands of South Dakota and the forests of Pennsylvania.”

Nursing major Kim Slowbe has also participated in biking events to help others for the past six years and said that she would “absolutely” be interested in participating in events such as The Big Ride. She plans to get involved in more biking events when she graduates.

Such an accomplishment is a once in a lifetime opportunity, yet Spotz states that she would like to do something similar again, but perhaps in a different country.

Contact features correspondent Christina Stavale at [email protected].