Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students to bike to Boston in support of homeless population

By Brian Bevilacqua

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Motivated by their interactions with homeless individuals in Amherst and Northampton, University of Massachusetts students Reed Fox and Mike McGrath are planning on riding their bikes over 100 miles into Boston.

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Fox and McGrath have taken on this challenge in order to raise funds and support for the Northampton Exercise Club, which offers therapeutic support to homeless individuals through sports.

The two riders will depart from Veterans Park in Northampton at 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 20 and bike to Hopkinton, the starting point for the Boston Marathon, where they will spend the night. The next day, they will bike the length of the marathon route into Boston.

The students’ involvement with the Northampton Exercise Club began last fall when Fox was approached by Professor Todd Crosset, who wanted to connect concerned students to people who understood social work through sports. Fox was immediately interested and recruited McGrath and Paul Merriman, a senior at UMass.

The trio began raising money through startsomegood.com, collecting more than $1,200 for sports equipment, sneakers, clothes and snacks for the homeless men and women that the Northampton Exercise Club works with. With this new funding, they were able to play different sports with the homeless every Friday morning, but the group was compelled to do more.

“We needed more funding and we did not want to do some cookie cutter fundraising or a little walk, we wanted to do something difficult. So one day I tweeted at Reed and said ‘Let’s bike to Boston,’ and now we’re doing it,” explained McGrath.

With Merriman tasked with finding sponsors and donations for the fundraiser, more than $1,800 was raised for the bike ride. Valley Bike and Ski Werks donated two new bikes for McGrath and Reed to train on.

However, the students say their primary goal is not to raise money but to raise morale for the homeless men and women they consider themselves fortunate to know.

“We want to do whatever we can to help get these men and women motivated and get their lives on track, because they can. They just did not have anyone to lean on when they needed help like the rest of us do,” said Reed. “They are just like us, and when you are playing sports the stigma of being different is removed.”

The group also hopes to build more respect and trust among the men and women they work with. Many do not stay in one place for long and are weary of receiving help.

“We want them to realize we are not giving them anything other than an outlet to vent,” said Merriman. “We are not trying to make them to go to rehab or church, we don’t want anything from them at all other than to feel better. That just leads to a happier outlook.”.

Brian Bevilacqua can be reached at [email protected]

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