Chesterton Tribune

Chesterton resident Rides to Hope for Uganda orphanage

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Chesterton resident Peter Wilson returns home Wednesday from biking 1,626 miles across the U.S. to raise awareness and funds for orphans in Africa. A long trip, indeed, but small in comparison to his next journey this October when he and his family will leave their home to be with the House of Hope Orphanage in Uganda.

Wilson, who embarked from Valparaiso on June 10, calls his travels on the road as the “Ride to Hope,” and it is a literal one. He is riding solo on his bicycle to Hope, Ark. and back again over the course of 24 days.

The targeted fundraising goal of $80,000 will be used to finish three orphanage buildings, build an outdoor kitchen and to install a septic system.

It may sound exhausting bicycling 70 to 90 miles per day but Wilson said his legs have held up “pretty well” thanks to the weeks of conditioning he did before the trip. But no amount of conditioning could have prepared Wilson for the real experience -- braving triple digit temperatures, high winds, steep hill climbs, four-foot-long snakes, a couple of missed turns, broken spokes and six flat tires.

“I’m getting pretty good at getting (the tires) fixed quickly,” Wilson said.

Despite the cons, there are plenty of pros for Wilson to enjoy and he keeps a daily blog about them. Highlights of his trip have included a three-mile police escort across a steel bridge, gorgeous views of rice fields in Missouri and Arkansas, riding through an 800-foot tunnel on the Tunnel Hill State Trail in Illinois, and crossing the Arkansas and Ouachita rivers.

But he said the biggest takeaway is the generosity complete strangers have shown him. Wilson said staying with people he didn’t know was the biggest concern his friends had about him traveling by himself, but most of the folks Wilson’s encountered have been touched by his journey. Over the past weekend, one motorist offered Wilson some lunch and a dip in his pool to cool off.

“I would say less than one percent of the people I’ve met have been rude in any way. Typically they are very sweet and nice,” Wilson said.

After three weeks pulling a small trailer carrying his tent, clothes and other belongings, Wilson said he’s looking forward to seeing his wife Natalie and their four young children whose ages range from two to seven years.

“It’s been a fun journey but I’m ready to be home,” he said.

This is not the first time Wilson has done something like this, however. Shortly after college, he biked from Chesterton all the way to the Atlantic Ocean with a few friends. When brainstorming with his wife on ways to raise money for the orphanage, the idea for a second bicycle journey, “Ride to Hope,” was conceived.

Natalie Wilson said there will be a welcome home celebration for her husband whose time of arrival is estimated to be 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The public is invited to join the Wilsons’ friends and family at the Bethel Church property near the intersection of Sturdy Road and CR 100 N. in Valparaiso starting at 4 p.m. A few will bike with Wilson on his last mile.

The entire family will live in Northern Uganda for initially two years or even longer depending on how the kids respond, said Peter Wilson. Both he and Natalie have been to Uganda before and felt called to move there when they became more acquainted with the House of Hope organization a little more than a year ago.

“We have been completely enthralled,” said Natalie Wilson. “The need out there is so huge. We felt we needed to do something.”

She said Uganda has more than 2.5 million children living as orphans. Though many of them have experienced great personal difficulties, they still have “such a rich amount of joy” and love to share.

Peter Wilson said House of Hope is home to 33 orphans currently. Considering the area does not have electricity, he said his family expects plenty of changes in their daily routine but believes making lives better for these orphans will make their anxieties quickly fade.

“There are going to be a lot of changes, but when you are doing something that you are passionate about, all those (worries) kind of fall by the way side,” he said.

The fundraiser will still go on after the bicycle ride has ended. You can sponsor one of Peter Wilson’s miles for $50. Donations can be made through the websites www.ridetohope.com

and www.lifeblessings.org

The sites feature more information on the Ride to Hope journey, the orphans in Uganda and the Wilson family.

 

Posted 7/2/2012