CARAG student to bike 3,700 miles for charity

Amber Murray will pedal from New Hampshire to British Columbia for Habitat for Humanity

Amber Murray’s most ambitious bike ride to date covered 30 miles; this summer she plans to ride 3,684 miles from Portsmouth, N.H. to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Murray, a 25-year-old CARAG resident, will make her ride with 20 to 30 other cyclists from across the country. It is part of a new program called "Bike and Build," to raise money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity, a non-denominational Christian group that builds affordable housing in partnership with those who need it.

Murray is taking a spinning class (a type of cycling exercise) at the University of Minnesota to get in shape, she said. She runs five to 11 miles a day, six days a week.

"I’ll be ready, I’m certain of that," she said in March. "Once it hits 35 degrees, I’ll start biking to school. I have an old mountain bike with a rusty chain that has a tendency to fall off. If nothing else, it makes me work a little harder."

The Bike and Build group will cycle between 20 and 116 miles a day, stopping at night to make presentations about Habitat, according to the group’s Web site, It will work on four different Habitat projects along the way.

The cross-country jaunt fits well into Murray’s educational plans. Last fall, she started a Masters Program in Recreation, Park and Leisure Studies at the University of Minnesota, she said. She wants an emphasis on adventure education and service learning, programs that combine outdoor activities with community service.

Building on a good thing

Marc Bush of New York started Bike and Build last year. This summer, it will hold two rides. The Dartmouth College Habitat chapter is sponsoring the New Hampshire to British Columbia ride.

A 2001 Yale grad, Bush said he participated in the Habitat Bike Challenge, a cross-country bike trip/fundraiser sponsored by the New Haven, Conn. chapter.

Other colleges expressed interest, and Bush is trying to replicate it, he said. He created Bike and Build as a non-profit.

The group aims to give 65 percent of the student-raised money to the Habitat clubs, he said. If it gets 21 riders for each ride, it expects to raise $100,000 after expenses, enough to sponsor a house in each community.

Riders need to raise $3,750 each. If they don’t, they don’t ride, Bush said. Whatever they raise is considered a donation.

Murray is the only Minnesota resident participating on the inaugural ride, according to the Web site. A few spaces remain.

Murray said she and her roommate, Annie, have brainstormed fundraising ideas — such as a trike relay in a church parking lot with a donation as an entry fee, or a coffee and tea gathering at the house.

"We have been perfecting our biscotti-baking skills," she said.

So far she’s put the touch on friends and family, and written her hometown paper, The Waupaca County Post, as well as the Southwest Journal.

She was at about $265 in mid-March, she said, but expected to hit $1,000 soon.

Bike and Build would not let her take her old mountain bike on the road. Bush said everyone on the trip needs a safe bike — and must ride the same brand to make repairs easier.

Bike and Build has received support from bike stores, and once Murray and other participants raise $2,500, the organization provides them with a Trek bike.

The trips cost $29,000 each for food, gas, cell phones, slide show equipment, stipends for leaders, bikes, tents, cooler, sleeping pads, bike tools and office overhead, Bush said, not counting his salary.

He is seeking grant funding for his salary, which he said would be at most $30,000 this year.

He could not guarantee 65 percent of money raised would go to Habitat projects, he said. It would depend on the success of participants’ fundraising. It was important for the organization to post good margins this first year. It would help it add sponsors and expand.

What about Minneapolis?

"I have been thinking about starting a trip that would run down the Mississippi River, starting in Minneapolis and going down to New Orleans. We don’t have any formal plans at this time," Bush said.

Anyone interested in helping Murray should give her a call at 703-5110.