from the Seattle Post Intelligencer
By NOEL LYN SMITH
Clad in yellow and blue jerseys, 144 bicyclists gathered among the usual walkers and beachcombers Monday morning on the shores at Golden Gardens Park.
Each dipped their rear tires in the cool waters of Puget Sound before departing on their 3,881-mile journey. For nine weeks, the group will ride from Seattle to Jersey City, N.J. -- then dip their front tires in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Sea to Sea 2008 Bike Tour aims to raise $1.5 million to help those in poverty, and is sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church in North America in cooperation with the Reformed Church in America.
"It captures people's attention when you have 20 people riding in a group," local organizer Doug Houck said. "But over 100 people riding, that will make an impact."
Bicyclist Corinne Smienk of Alliston, Ontario, said Monday she joined the tour because it offered a unique way to help those less fortunate.
"I wanted to make a bit of a dent in the cycle of poverty," said the 23-year-old.
For Bill Marble, 61, of Modesto, Calif., poverty was an issue as he was growing up in India. "It may have decreased a little bit, but it's still an every-day phenomenon," said Marble, who had attached a traveling billboard advertising the tour to his bike frame.
Participants can ride either the entire tour or one of its three regional stages -- west, central or east. The west stage runs between Seattle and Denver; the central portion is from Denver to Grand Rapids, Mich.; and the east section goes from Grand Rapids to Jersey City.
Each cyclist is raising $10,000, or $4,000 if they ride regionally.
This is the first time the Christian Reformed Church of North America, which is based in Grand Rapids, has sponsored a U.S. tour.
Funds generated will assist the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Partners Worldwide, and Christian Reformed World Missions, which target poverty domestically and internationally; each one receives 25 percent of the proceeds.
The remaining funds go to the Christian Reformed Church Foundation for grants to combat poverty in local communities.
Organizers expect the tour's operational costs to be covered by corporate sponsors.
Leanne Talen Geisterfer of Grand Rapids works with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and plans to ride from Seattle to Jersey City.
"I'm scared, I'm thrilled -- it's a mixed bag of emotions," she said about her participation. "It's exciting to be a part of this group of people that have the same vision."
Every three seconds, a child dies from poverty-related illness, Geisterfer, 50, told the audience during a rally Sunday in the Husky Union Building at the University of Washington.
It takes her three seconds to complete four pedal strokes, she said, and in that time, a child has died.
Preventing that loss is why she is riding, Geisterfer said.
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