For the 15th year running, a group of first-year UConn medical and dental students will bike approximately 3,500 miles across the continental United States in order to raise money for charity.
A group of four students, Talia Staiger, Mary Kate Kosciusko, Sarah Gans and Kelly Jones, will fly to Seattle, Washington in early June before riding through the northern portion of the American countryside to raise money for the Adaptive Sports Program through the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain.
“This is a really good way to make a difference, with this charity that we’re choosing, so that’s really important to us,” Staiger said. “Also, we call it our last summer this summer, because the next three years of school are not going to have the summer [off] and after that we’re going to be working. This will be a really meaningful and unique way to spend the last summer we’ll have not working.”
This program gives children and adults with disabilities a place to play sports and create relationships with others through competition, according to their website. They offer camps, leagues and golf tournaments to those with disabilities, free of charge.
The group of cyclists will do all of their fundraising in the spring semester, prior to the excursion this summer.
“It’s going to be a bit of work to organize all of the fundraising stuff over the spring semester while also being students too,” Staiger said on the main challenges they face in this process.
The dental students are collecting money through their website, coast2coast2020.travel.blog, where there is a PayPal link for any prospective donations. In the past, groups have collected thousands of dollars for the charities of their choice. They are looking to raise as much as possible, hoping to best last year’s group, who raised about $15,000.
They are holding multiple fundraising events this month in West Hartford, one at Chipotle on the 25th from 5 to 9 p.m. and a spin event at Tribe this Saturday. They are also hosting events alongside the medical and dental schools, including a student silent web auction and a faculty auction.
“It feels very special and I feel very lucky that a lot of people have paved the way for us, so this is a tradition that we get to take part in and I feel very lucky to be a part of it,” Staiger said. “This is an incredible opportunity.”
They aim to make the trek in 60 days, so that they can make it back to Connecticut in time for school to start back up in the fall. Staiger said they will be camping quite a bit as well as using the Warm Showers program.
“It will be physically and mentally very hard some days, because it’s going to be a lot of mileage and it’s going to be very windy,” Staiger said. “We’re starting off in a kind of mountain range in Washington, so that’s going to be a bit of rough start, I think. There’s also going to be some bad weather and I think we’re going to have a lot of road bumps, and I think getting through all of those will be challenging, but we’re going to have to stay flexible and adapt as we go.”
This organization is a network of cyclists around the globe who provide rooms in their homes for other cyclists to sleep and shower at while out on their journeys. They will pitch their tents on nights they cannot find a host family.
“I did track at UConn, I just graduated last year, so I have experience running but biking is pretty different,” Staiger said on the physical aspect to biking such a distance. “I still think it will be a ton of fun. We’re all just trying to get our training in now, get as ready as we can.”