Alumnus bikes across country for a cause

By Ben Conrady

SIU alumnus Patrick Erickson will ride his bike coast-to-coast this summer to raise money and help build houses for those in need.

Erickson will be part of a 32-rider group for Bike and Build, an independent organization that has donated more than $3.3 million to affordable housing groups throughout the United States since its inception in 2002, according to the organization’s website.

While the group will participate in building projects throughout its approximate 3,000 mile trip, each rider can make a contribution toward a cause of his or her choice. Erickson, of De Soto, said he will donate a portion the money he raised to Habitat for Humanity of Harrisburg.


“I’m trying to bring the community into it,” he said. “Being from around the area, it seemed to make sense to give back to people that need it.”

Erickson’s trip will launch June 10 in Providence, R.I., and the group will reach its final destination Aug. 18 at Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Apart from the joy of giving back, Erickson said added perks of the trip include the camaraderie between riders, and each group member gets to keep his or her bike if he or she finishes the trek.

Chris DeFiore, one of Erickson’s fellow riders, said he is excited to help others but also thinks the experience will be beneficial to the group.

“I believe that the Bike and Build experience will not only help provide a home for those who are in need, but it will also create a shared time and place amongst all of the amazing riders and communities we meet along the way,” DeFiore said.

Erickson said each biker is expected to train on his or her own in order to keep up with the group’s pace and finish the trip without injury. As a group leader, he said he still has to get in proper shape, because he has been spending a lot of his time making arrangements for the trip.

“There is a lot of work setting the trip up and making sure we can stay at community centers and churches along the way to save money,” he said. “Everyone has to ride at least 500 miles before they can actually go on the trip, and they have to complete a 65-mile ride in one day, because there are days that we ride over 100 miles.”


Thus far, Erickson’s training has consisted of riding his bike as much as possible, including to and from work on occasion. He also said his training for the Navy Diving Program will be beneficial.

Each rider is allowed to bring 50 pounds of luggage on the trip, and Erickson said this can cause tricky decisions when packing.

“You don’t get much,” he said. “Food is provided, so you don’t have to worry about that, but most people will bring two or three biking outfits, a couple T-shirts, a pair of jeans, one hoodie, a sleeping bag, a thermal mattress, a small pillow and towel, and not much else.”

Erickson said any leftover room will probably be used for various forms of entertainment such as an iPod.

Along his route, Erickson will submit stories to Withers Broadcasting to document his trip, which will run on the air. He will also journal about his trip for the Southern Illinoisan.

Erickson has raised $1,872 toward his goal of $4,500, according to the Bike and Build website.