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home : news : local   May 24, 2016

9/12/2013 6:38:00 AM
Peru native bikes across US for children with disabilities

Submitted photoTyler Coons has a Northern Illinois Huskies banner draped over him during a break from riding across the United States along with other riders on the Journey of Hope.
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Submitted photo
Tyler Coons has a Northern Illinois Huskies banner draped over him during a break from riding across the United States along with other riders on the Journey of Hope.
Elizabeth Edwards
NewsTribune Reporter

Imagine riding your bike in the hot sun, cold rain and rugged mountains for more than 3,000 miles, and feeling your body tire with each push of the pedal.

Through the physical exhaustion and pain, you reach your destination after a three-month journey, experiencing the disbelief, and regret that the journey is finally over.

Peru native Tyler Coons experienced exactly this after riding his bike not only for himself, but for children with disabilities as part of “Journey of Hope” program through the Push America organization this summer.

The nonprofit organization is part of Coons’s fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, which has served people with disabilities since 1977.

After graduating from Northern Illinois University, Coons started his ride with 18 other cyclists in Seattle in June to the final destination of Washington, D.C., three months later in August.
To prepare for the physical demands of biking across the country, Coons said he bought a bike, and started riding around about 30 miles at a time throughout the Illinois Valley.

In April, Coons said he participated in a training ride in Missouri with other cyclists on his team, where he was expected to bike 50 miles.

 “I did 30 miles fine, what is 20 more?” he said. “But after 50 miles I was done, I thought it would be the end of it.”

But Coons would not be done with 50 miles. Instead he would ride for 3,608 miles and average 85 miles a day for the next three months. On 14 of the days, he would bike 100 miles or more.

Coons said nothing could have prepared him for the first couple of days of riding especially near Mount Rainier in Washington.

On his first day in Seattle, Coons said he biked 45 miles, and then on the second day he biked 120 miles over two mountain passes.

Even with riding over mountain passes near Mount Rainer, Coons said he was surprised to find that the hardest part of his journey was in Missouri because of the constant rolling hills and the heat in the summer. 

Throughout each day riding their bikes, Coons said the 18 cyclists would stop to meet with children with disabilities, and to raise awareness about why they were biking across the country. They would play games and work on arts and crafts with the children.

“It is not just about raising the money and spreading the awareness,” he said. “We actually do get involved in the organizations we help.”

Many of the children he visited were waiting the entire year for them, he said.
“They start asking from the moment we leave, ‘When are the guys on the bikes coming back?’,” he said. “We make that big of an impact.”

In order to ride across the country, Coons said he had to raise $5,000 from sponsors, and he ended up raising $5,600.

At the end of the ride, about 80 cyclists met at George Washington University, and walked to the capitol building together. 

After his journey, Coons said he’d ride again even after all the physical exhaustion and pain. From his journey, Coons said anybody — not just those who rode the bike — can do anything they set their minds to.

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