Fuller Center Biking furthers recreation, charityBy Alex Smith | 11/21/2016 8:53pm
Though many students bike to class, the adventure portion of The Fuller Center allows individuals to cycle cross country, all while raising money along the way. CW File
Pedaling slowly up the incline, the two men gasped for heated air as sweat poured down their faces. The previous 3,000 miles paled in comparison to the difficulty of these hills, but as the realization hit that their journey was coming to a close, the men willed themselves forward.
Connor Ciment and Henry Downes, both 2015 graduates of The University of Alabama and former roommates, gave up graduate school and job hunting to work as biking adventure Coordinators for The Fuller Center for Housing non-profit organization in Americus, Georgia.
The biking adventure portion of The Fuller Center is an opportunity for individuals to cycle cross country, while simultaneously raising money and helping local partners build homes for those in need along the way.
This past summer Ciment and Downes lead a group of 35 cyclists from Seattle, WA to Washington, D.C. The team raised $303,546 towards the Fuller Center for Housing. Along the way, the Bike Adventurers stopped and volunteered on six Fuller Center build sites, living out their mission to end poverty housing.
Ciment completed his second cross country adventure this past summer.
“In the summer of 2015, I was on the train tracks of life and the mission of the Fuller Center caught me a little bit off guard because I wasn’t expecting it – I was just looking for a bike ride,” Ciment said.
Ciment and Downes are responsible for planning and leading summer-long Bike Adventures across the country that range anywhere from two to three months long, as well as coordinating smaller adventures that last a week. Additionally, they help participants, who raise about one dollar per mile, seek donors to help with the fundraising aspect of the trip.
“When you work for the Fuller Center you’re not extorting people for money,” Downes said. “We care about what we do, and we think it is important work.”
Downes said he would write letters to his donors and include the location and stretch of millage in which they were funding so that they could have some sort of buy in to what he was doing.
“People really like how they feel and what they get when they give to the Fuller Center,” Downes said.
Neither Ciment of Downes had any type of serious cycling experience before their first Bike Adventure. In fact, this is the case for many new riders on the Bike Adventure.
Ciment said the most important thing for a participant to have is a positive attitude.
“There is a certain degree of mental toughness … It’s going to rain, you’re going to take a wrong turn or your bike might have hiccups…all sorts of stuff can happen,” Ciment said.
Though there are good days as well as more difficult ones on the longer trips, Ciment and Downes are consistently enthusiastic about the service they can provide to others.