A 4,000-mile journey that began on June 15 came to a memorable end in Wrightsville Beach Wednesday morning as six Boy Scouts finished a two-month bicycling trip to honor a schoolmate and raise awareness and funds for teen cancer programs.
With no vehicle support or assistance for the entire trek, family, friends and supporters gathered for a celebration at Blockade Runner Resort to signify the end to this epic ride. Joined by six adult leaders, who shared duties two at a time over the course of 67 days, the scouts raised over $30,000 for the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation, which was created in memory of Sophie Steiner. The East Chapel Hill School student was diagnosed with germ-cell cancer in November 2012 and passed away nine months later at age 15.
“I’m am unbelievably proud of all of their accomplishments, riding thousands of miles on an unsupported trip for a very worth cause,” said Dale Baron, mother of cyclist David Margolies. “I think it’s really impacting that these boys took their summer and dedicated it to a cause they believe in. They saw they can make a difference and this organization really helps teens when they’re in treatment for cancer, so to think if this can help just one family to get through this horrible time they’ve done their job.”
As the excursion began on the coast of Florence, Oregon by dipping their rear tire in the Pacific Ocean, the expedition closed with a police escort through Wrightsville Beach and a synchronized dip of their front wheels into the Atlantic Ocean.
“These young men really showed all of us how much influence we can have and inspire us to have an effect,” said Mary Baggett, owner of Blockade Runner Resort. “It’s so critical to see our future empower us and just very proud to be a part of this and have the honor to host them on their final destination.”
Averaging about 70 miles a day, the crew tackled the back roads of some of the most scenic landscape the country has to offer. The extreme cyclists, high school students in Chapel Hill, successfully navigated the Cascades and Rockies, crossed the Continental Divide, descended into the Great Plains and wrapped up their journey over the Appalachian Mountains through North Carolina’s Piedmont to the coast.
Before her passing, Steiner expressed a strong desire to help other teens facing an overwhelming cancer diagnosis with non-clinical needs. Her wish led to the formation of Be Loud! Sophie Foundation, which supports teen cancer programs at UNC Hospitals.
The Boy Scouts saw many acts of kindness and generosity on their trip, including meals, overnight accommodations, refreshing swimming pools, and contributions to the cause.
“I think the most important thing about this trip, while raising money for the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation and using Sophie as inspiration, was the kindness that was shared with us,” said Margolies. “I think the stories you’ll hear have one thing in common, is that it involved people from all across this great nation. Everyone we met was kind, helped us and were interesting. I’m just very pleased to see how great of a country we live in.”
Although six scouts finished the entire experience, a seventh cyclist, Alex Broz, had to leave early because of a school commitment in Germany and left while the team was in Kentucky. Interestingly, before Broz departed, the group picked up a German couple, who were tandem riding across the country. Benja and Caroline started in San Francisco, California and went through the desert to join the Transamerica Trail. The team caught sight of the Teutonic tandem about halfway into their ride at Harrisburg, Illinois and joined the boys on the rest of their journey.
While the trip itself was one to be commemorated as a salute to the young men who battled through both mental and physical challenges, with a few bumps and bruises along the way, two Wilmington families also joined in on the celebration Wednesday to congratulate the boys. Their two young children are now in remission after battling cancer and receiving treatment in Chapel Hill.
“We heard about their cause and just wanted to thank them for inspiring us and so many people across the country during the past few months,” said parent Amy Hermann.
Just before the boys made one final move towards the ocean to end the grueling task, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) stepped in and made a surprise announcement the insurance company will pay tribute to the scouts, in partnership with the Carolina Hurricanes, during the upcoming season.
Through their Live Fearless campaign, BCBSNC will welcome the scouts to a VIP night on November 12 when the Hurricanes take on the Philadelphia Flyers at PNC Bank Arena in Raleigh. They will enjoy a luxury suite, be individually honored and recognized for their accomplishments in front of thousands of their peers on Boys Scouts Night.
Click here to read blog posts from the trip, view a complete photo gallery and donate.