College News

Alumnus Bikes for Better Housing

From the February 2017 Desktop News Alumnus Henry Downes didn’t take the traditional path after graduation. He took the bike path.

Though Downes double-majored in political science and economics, he became a full-time Bike Adventure trip leader after graduation, working for the Fuller Center for Housing, a nonprofit organization in Americus, Georgia, that helps to eliminate poverty housing by working with individuals and communities to build and renovate houses for people in need.

Each year, the Fuller Center hosts various cross-country Bike Adventure trips to raise money and awareness for their program. By having each rider raise about $1 per mile they ride, the Bike Adventure has raised over $1.6 million to help the Fuller Center Build homes domestically and abroad since 2008.

Each rider typically raises around $4,000, which can be enough to rehabilitate a home in the US or build a home abroad.

Downes initially became interested in the Fuller Center and the Bike Adventure trips in 2015 after his friend and former college roommate Connor Ciment, a graduate of UA’s College of Engineering, invited him on his first weekend-long ride.

It was tough, but he loved it so much that later that summer he decided to bike the entire country, from Washington State to Washington, D.C., stopping to build houses along the way.

Neither Downes nor Ciment were avid cyclists when they got involved in the rides, but they have now cycled over 10,000 miles combined across the country and have both become Bike Adventure trip leaders for The Fuller Center.

“It got in my blood,” Downes said. “I couldn’t imagine tearing myself from this mission.”

Following the success of 2016’s summer rides, which raised more than $300,000 for the Fuller Center, Downes and Ciment added a third ride for summer 2017 as well as a 5k run. This year there will be one cross-country ride, one East Coast ride, and one West Coast ride. They hope the rides will raise $400,000 for the Fuller Center this year.

Though Downes and Ciment agree that the rides get difficult, they say they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

“I had never really ridden my bike more than 15 miles at a time,” Downes said. “On the ride, the riders become a very close knit community. You put the team first and realize the ride isn’t a race; it isn’t how fast you can get through the day; it’s about spending quality moments with the team.”

To learn more about Bike Adventure or working on a build with the Fuller Center, please contact Downes or Ciment at bike@fullercenter.org.