Less than a week from today, La Cañada Flintridge resident Don Sheppard will roll into Charleston, S.C. on his bike, the finish line for a ride that will have raised $63,078 for charity.
Sheppard said in a phone interview during a break in Clayton, N.M. that he is gratified that the 3,215-mile trip has drawn attention from people who have made donations via his website, www.donsheppardbikesacrossamerica2012.com.
“It’s just got a huge following in La Cañada, certainly, and all over the country and in Canada. It’s been just thrilling, and it will grow a little still. We’ve already got somewhere over 130 individual donors,” he said while catching some much-needed recovery time in a motel following a 100-mile leg of the ride.
The 65-year-old retired businessman is earmarking the funds raised to four charities: WISER (The Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research), Young Life Capernaum, Project GOAL, and his own charitable effort, the L.A. Futbol Club Foundation.
WISER is a Kenyan foundation that focuses on improving education and health for girls, particularly those orphaned by AIDS, while also working on community-wide projects.
“[WISER offers] clean drinking water for the community, sanitation projects, gardening projects, they do just a ton of things,” said Sheppard. “The central theme was giving women an opportunity through education, and it’s been tremendously successful, and that’s my primary commitment.”
Young Life Capernaum is the non-denominational Christian ministry’s outreach to youth with special needs, and Project GOAL is a Rhode Island-based charity that provides after-school soccer and tutoring programs for disadvantaged youth.
Sheppard, who has been posting daily updates on his trip to his website, said that he wanted to give donors a chance to follow along with his progress — which is the result of work that stretches back far before he got on his bike in Santa Barbara in September.
“I lost over 50 pounds, and I did it over a course of a year … to be prepared to take this challenge on. I worked really hard to change the way I lived,” he said. “Now the ride is just a huge physical and mental challenge.”
Sheppard said that although the training for the ride was an incredibly positive experience, he probably won’t be looking into another cross-country ride for his next charitable endeavor.
“It has shocked me, it’s so, so difficult,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me.”