GV student devotes summer to cross-country “Bike and Build”

Courtesy Photo / Nathan Tokarek
Nathan Tokarek will be biking across the Uinted States this summer helping build homes

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Nathan Tokarek Nathan Tokarek will be biking across the Uinted States this summer helping build homes

Hannah Matro

Over summer vacation, some students at Grand Valley State University will bum around, consuming Red Vines and blue raspberry Slurpees, while others will work at summer camps, breaking up fights between wiry sixth graders and bathing in tea tree oil to cure poison ivy. But unique to GVSU’s Nathan Tokarek’s plans is a 4,000-mile bike across the US with an organization called Bike and Build, making frequent stops along the way to aid in the building of affordable housing.

Affordable housing is defined as spending 30 percent or less of your income on a place to live. The average four-person family in the U.S. with one working parent cannot afford the cost of a new two-bedroom apartment, increasing the need for organizations like Habitat for Humanity to step in and create houses that people can own at a reasonable price.

Bike and Build has several routes to choose from, starting in places like Virginia Beach, Va., or Providence, R.I., and ending in Canon Beach, Ore. and Half Moon Bay, Calif. Bikers will set out together, bike a while, stop a while and repeat until the journey is complete.

Along the way, participants will be graciously put up by supporting churches, families and organizations and not left on sides of highways in tents or ditches, nor will they be actually riding in RVs sipping on juice boxes and eating Fig Newtons. This is the real deal, a rare and matchless opportunity to introduce people to biking, volunteering and the concept of affordable housing, while allowing them to see America in a new way.

“I want experience,” said Tokarek, a junior clinical exercise science major from Grand Rapids. “Adventure. Most of all I want that good feeling you get from helping those who need it and by raising awareness for this issue we’re facing in America. I love biking and this is a great outlet for me to give back through that passion”.

Bikers between the ages of 18 and 25 must raise $4,500 prior to the trip, which will all be directly handed over to Habitat for Humanity, and log a sweaty 500 miles on the exact bike they will be using for the trek across country. In addition, they must give nearly 11 hours of “sweat equity,” or volunteer time, toward an organization like Habitat before they can embark on the voyage. Physical shape does not matter, though essays and an application are required, and training information is distributed to help prepare the bikers for the 70 or so miles they will cross each day.

“I want to interest other Grand Valley students, who would like to do it but don’t even know about it, in participating,” Tokarek said. “I’m the only person from Michigan going.”

Tokarek will be leaving May 17 and returning Aug. 3, pedaling from balmy Jacksonville, Fla., to sunny Monterey, Calif.

If you feel inclined to donate to Tokarek’s cause, keep a keen eye out: he just may be seen stationary biking for funds in the next month somewhere on campus, perhaps under the Blue Bridge.

If you want more information on Tokarek, contact him directly at [email protected] or visit www.bikeandbuild.org/rider/6152 to view his biker biography.

For more info on the Bike and Build cause, go to www.bikeandbuild.org/cms/.

[email protected]