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Students, staff raise funds, ride miles toward World Bicycle Relief

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It’s never uncommon to hear loud chatter within the halls of Central during a passing period, but recently the noise in the front lobby has escalated during those six minutes between classes. Accompanying footsteps and conversation on Friday, March 9, were the hum of spinning stationary bicycles ridden by three teachers in an effort to raise money for the World Bicycle Fund (WBF).


Marc O’Shea, Central Academy Instructional Coordinator, along with P.E. Instructional Coordinator Neil Duncan and P.E. teacher Jeff Yanke will cycle one mile for every dollar raised toward the charity.  WBF has provided over 98 thousand bicycles to families and individuals in Africa in order to provide necessary transportation to education and healthcare facilities, as well as increased economic opportunity, according to their website


The engine behind this fundraiser, according to O’Shea, is a group of approximately 70 students who participate in the Academic Reading and Learning Readiness P.E. (LRPE) programs, which the three teachers head.


“In the [Academic Reading] class, we read a lot of nonfiction and we really want kids to act, to be active readers,” said O’Shea. “So we read about [American cyclist] Marshall “Major” Taylor and we started to look at the bicycle in the world today.”


After reading some articles in Forbes and the New York Times about the Chicago-based WBF, the students were inspired to act.


“The kids in the class said, well we’re doing mile-efforts and spinning in P.E., I wonder if we could do something in regard to the reading,” said O’Shea. “So we said, why don’t you start raising money?”


The students initially raised $402, equivalent to 402 miles. Since then, $770 has been raised school-wide, as of press time. O’Shea, Duncan and Yanke, all avid cyclists, are taking turns riding the stationary bikes during their free hours and have cycled a combined 150 miles so far.


“It’s kind of like losing a bet,” said O’Shea. “We [told the students], you know what, you want to act? You want to raise the money, the hard part? We’ll (the teachers) do what we think is the easy part, we’ll ride the miles.”


The fundraiser is intended to extend through March, until Spring Break. O’Shea hopes the teachers and additional volunteers can complete the miles before March 14, when the co-founder of WBR is coming to Central to speak to his students. On that day, the fastest LRPE cycler will also race principal Bill Wiesbrook on stage. Furthermore, the students will speak to Chicago cyclist Bryce Walsh, via Skype. Walsh, whose efforts the class will donate to, is currently riding through Africa in support of WBF.


WBF not only donates bicycles (at a price of $134 each), but also gives people the opportunity to help train a field mechanic ($250), as well as give bicycles in bulk, such as through options from “Mobilize A Group” ($670, 5 bicycles) to “Empower A Community” ($15 thousand, 100 bicycles and 12 field mechanics).


“A bicycle in the hands of a student, healthcare worker, or entrepreneur in rural Africa is truly life-changing,” WBF states on their website. O’Shea agrees.


“The radius you can travel is amazing,” O’Shea said.

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