Pikes Peak Sports Photo
This is a guest post by Tim Bergsten from Pikes Peak Sports. Pikes Peak Sports is a site for the outdoor community in the Pikes Peak Region. If you’re interested in guest posting on UltraRob, please contact me.
Jason Christensen shakes his head in disbelief when he considers the statistics: In the United States, 40 million people live in poverty and the number is increasing. In Colorado, 15 percent of the children live in poverty, and one in four people, at some point in their lives, has struggled to purchase food.
Two years ago in El Paso County in Colorado, one in 12 adults received food stamps. Last year that ratio changed to one in 10.
“What is the one thing that should unify us all? Care and concern for the poor,” Christensen said. “Whatever your politics, we should all see that in our nation of abundance, 40 million people should not be living in poverty.”
And so the CEO of Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs is going to do something about it. In about 30 days, he’ll swing a leg over his bicycle in Cape Flattery, Wash., and ride 5,000 miles to Key West, Fla., in the Cycling for Change bike ride.
Over 100 days, he and a team of 11 other riders, will pedal over mountain passes, pierce the nation’s heartland, and roll across the southern states. Along the way, they’ll carry this message from Catholic Charities USA: Businesses, faith-based organizations, governments and individuals must work together to reduce poverty in the U.S.
The organization has a goal of reducing the number of families living at or below the poverty line by 50 percent by 2020.
The money that Christensen raises – he is soliciting sponsorships – will go to the Marian House Soup Kitchen in Colorado Springs. (Click here to make a donation) A year ago, the Marian house served 9,000 meals to kids, more than twice as many than in previous years.
Christensen’s motivations are simple.
“There is no reason that a child should go hungry,” he said. “Every child should have something to eat.”
Christensen, 40, grew up in Pekin, Ill. He learned to love cycling while pedaling a “50-pound Schwinn” around the countryside with his schoolmates. He later graduated from Western Illinois University with degrees in Political Science and French.
These days he is happiest when he’s skating with his recreation-league hockey team. But he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend the summer riding across the country. It’s going to be a challenge. He is recovering from knee surgery. His recent bike rides have mostly been inside at Carmichael Training Systems. But he has done simulated rides of up to 100 miles.
He did receive a bit of a shock a year ago when he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He is not insulin-dependent, but he does have to eat a healthful diet and exercise. It gave him to opportunity to look closely at his lifestyle.
“The thing about diabetes, you really need daily exercise,” Christensen said. “Playing hockey wasn’t going to be enough.”
In August he started a hard regimen of exercise. The results of his tough work came quickly.
“I lost 20 pounds,” Christensen said. “I didn’t feel so sluggish after eating. And my speed really picked up in hockey. It was a marked difference.”
And now he has 5,000 miles before him. The old Schwinn won’t make the trip. Christensen will ride a Roubaix Elite Specialized road bike.
“I guess you could say this is my way of acting out my mid-life crisis,” he said with a laugh.
As CEO of Catholic Charities, he oversees operation of the Marian House, but says the best thing about the job is sharing a meal with the guests, folks who have nowhere else to go for food.
“These people are struggling, but they are beautiful on the inside,” Christensen said. “For them, the prospect of living day to day, or hour to hour is real.”
And that thought will keep him moving when the miles grow long this summer.
“Those mountain passes in Idaho and the heat and the wind in Kansas will be tough,” Christensen said. “But it’ll be nothing compared to what these people living in poverty face every day.”
Read Christensen’s blog.
There will be a local ride connected to Cycling for Change. On July 7 about 200 riders will participate in the Freedom from Poverty Bike Ride, (read more here) cycling north to Castle Rock to meet up with Christensen and the Cycling for Change team. All the riders will return to Colorado Springs the next day where they’ll be welcomed at the Freedom from Poverty Community Celebration, 1 to 8 p.m. in America the Beautiful Park. There will be food and drink (beer and root beer from Bristol Brewing). Click here to register for the ride.