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Student bikes across America to help build homes

While many College students spend their summers relaxing at the beach or working as interns, senior health and exercise science and education major Chris Burns spent his biking across the country – and raising money for Habit for Humanity in the process.

He did so by participating in a program called Bike & Build, which teams up students from several colleges and universities and allows them to participate in the 3,800-mile cross country bike trip in order to raise awareness about Habitat for Humanity, the charitable foundation that builds homes for low-income families.

Burns and 32 other college students trekked from Providence, R.I. to Seattle, Wash., crossing 13 different states over a period of two months. Each participant had to raise $4,000 in donations. While some of that money went toward the expenses for the trip, a large portion of it was donated to Habitat for Humanity. Burns’ group raised about $65,000, after expenses, to build new homes.

Many of the stops along the way were made to raise awareness about the importance of providing affordable housing for low-income families. The stops were as far east as Scranton, Pa., and as far west as Spokane, Wash.

The trip also included stops to important national treasures like Yellowstone National Park.

“There is no place like it, though I didn’t see any grizzly bears,” Burns said.

The trip was not for the faint of heart. Burns said the group usually traveled about 70 miles a day, and there were some days where the group traveled 100 miles or more. Some of the participants had no training prior to the trip and became exhausted during the first couple of days, Burns said of the group. But as the group moved on, it didn’t have any more problems. Since

Burns runs cross country track for the College, he believes he was more than prepared for such a long journey.

One of the most satisfying moments for Burns came from the sight of the oceans. “When the trip started, we all dipped our bike wheels in the Atlantic Ocean,” he said. “When we arrived in Seattle, we dipped our wheels in the Pacific Ocean. It was pretty amazing that we had come all that way.”

Burns also made new friends during the two-month bike trip. He met new friends who live as far away as Ann Arbor, Mich., and got to know other friends he was already acquainted with better than ever.

He learned about the trip through the College’s Habitat for Humanity Club and was able to visit various projects in Trenton to gain an understanding of the cause he was supporting through his bike trip.

After his experience, Burns is now serving as a leader and organizer of one of next year’s trips. “This time, as a leader, I can make it better,” he said.

Burns said he plans on doing so by contacting newspapers and television and radio stations that serve the towns at which the groups stop for their presentations. “By doing this, we can draw larger crowds and raise more awareness about our cause,” Burns said.

He also hopes that if enough students from the College get involved, local businesses will offer more support and donations.

Burns held an interest session for students on Oct. 27, in Brower Student Center. He spoke about his personal experience on the trip and plans for next year’s trip which will be from Annapolis to San Francisco.

According to Bike & Build’s Web site,, the organization has donated $229,875 toward its cause. The organization was started by Marc Bush, a student at Yale University. Burns’ trip was one of three cross-country bike trips Bike & Build ran, each with different starting and finishing points. Next year, the group plans on doing five different trips.

Contact Burns at or for more information on Bike & Build. Pictures of Burns’ trip can be viewed on the Bike & Build Web site. Burns is planning on having multiple information sessions before next year’s trip.


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