Diary of an Intern: Biking for Opportunity

by Frank Marino   •  

Riding bikes was one of my favorite childhood activities. My friends and I would ride our Toys ‘R’ Us two-wheelers around our neighborhood, looping circles in my drive way or racing from one end of the street to the other with no real purpose other than to see who could pedal faster. Sometimes I would ride my bike off into streets I didn’t recognize, just to see what was down that path. Inching forward, ever so slightly farther and farther before ultimately getting nervous I went too far away from home. I’d worry that somehow my mother could sense where I was and would scold at me for disobeying her instructions to stay within the limits. More than challenging my mother, by pushing those limits I was challenging my own fears – the fear of the unknown, the fear of getting lost and never finding my way again, or that ever looming fear of the omnipresent boogie-man. Riding bikes was more than just something nonsensical and fun – it gave me freedom to explore my relative world, discovering new things about my neighborhood with each push of the pedal.

For some Lasallian Volunteers, riding bikes has taken on a special meaning, too. On June 14, thirteen volunteers will commit to an epic bicycle journey across America, as they venture 3,400 miles coast-to-coast from Oregon to New Jersey for the LVs Ride. These brave bicyclists will not be racing just to race, or riding Toys ‘R’ Us bicycles they got for their 8th birthday. They’re not riding for a medal, for fanfare or fancy titles. They have committed to this ride because they want to put the spotlight on the severe barriers to opportunity that exist within America. They believe in using service as a strategy to address and end this social issue that affects so many Americans today.

As of 2009, 14.3% of all persons in the United States live in poverty. That is almost 40,000,000 people who struggle each and every day to meet their basic needs to lead a successful life. Perhaps even more unsettling is that 35% of those people are children. That’s 15,000,000 children who probably don’t have food to eat or a chance to go to school, never mind a bicycle to go exploring their world with. These children are facing barriers that I cannot comprehend as they try to achieve their American dream, something they deserve the opportunity to do. It is people like the Lasallian Volunteer riders, and the organizations they will visit along their journey, that are fighting to increase that opportunity for millions of children in America.

I haven’t owned a bike since that Toys ‘R’ Us two-wheeler, so I can’t physically join in the LVs Ride, but I plan to ride a virtual bike and support those who are doing it in real life! There are many ways you can get involved with the LVs Ride, whether you want to commit to be a national rider or support the trip with housingmeals or donations. Together, these thirteen individuals will ride much farther than their driveways, much much farther than their neighborhood streets, much much much farther than their mother ever told them they could ride. Together, they will go beyond exploring their relative worlds and begin to explore the world of opportunity in America, all the while spreading a message that service works. Service – whether that’s in the form of riding a bike across country to raise awareness, or giving an hour of your time to a local food kitchen – is a viable way to break down the barriers to and increase opportunity in America. Now, tell me, where will you ride your bike?

Frank Marino

Intern, Opportunity Nation

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