If you’ve read some of my past posts, you may have noticed that I love stories about young people doing amazing things to help the world. Zach Bonner is a perfect example, and you can find more stories on Kids Are Heroes. And today, I have another story: Joseph Machado, who biked across the country to raise money for kids in need.
Joseph is 13 years old, and he spent this past summer on his bike, traveling from Rancho Cucamonga, CA to Washington DC. His family, parents Rob and Elvira and older sister Mercedes, accompanied him in their car. The trip took 39 days, to travel about 3,000 miles. Joseph’s goal was to raise money for charity, and to inspire other kids and show them that they can make a difference too. You can find out more on Joseph’s website, Biking for America.
I had the privilege of asking Joseph and his family a few questions recently about their trip. Here is what they shared with me:
What inspired you to make this journey?
Joseph: I was in a wheelchair for many months due to various sporting accidents. I was one of the lucky ones who got out of my wheelchair and wanted to do something to help disadvantaged kids. Since I am only 13 years old, I decided the one thing I could do is bike across America to raise money for kids who can’t afford the treatment they need. So, I got on my bike on June 5, 2010 and left from Central Park in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and headed towards Washington DC.
What was the most difficult part?
Joseph: The extreme heat, with temperatures reaching up to 120 degrees while riding through the Mojave Desert and then towards the end of the ride, riding through the Appalachians Mountains. I also encountered thunder storms and high humidity. I was also attacked by numerous bugs including a swarm of bees which stung me on the neck and in my mouth. I’m sure I swallowed a few.
Robert and Elvira: Watching Joseph ride day after day with most of the daily temperatures rising into the upper 90’s and sometimes over 110 degrees with humidly around 90%. Sometimes Joseph rode with a strong headwind that challenged him.
What was the most rewarding part?
Joseph: I was able to meet with various groups such as kids at Camp Quality (a camp for kids with cancer). I also was able to meet with kids at the Cincinnati Aquatic Program for disabled children. I enjoyed meeting people in different states that were so kind and hospitable. I had an opportunity to meet and stay with Firefighters, police, churches, a bomb shelter and a shelter to feed the homeless. I also enjoyed meeting the many police officers that escorted me on most of the trip. It was amazing to see how patriotic and supportive the people we met throughout the country are and it made me feel very proud to be an American.
Robert and Elvira: One of the most rewarding part was watching Joseph meeting the kids and knowing that he really was making a difference. To see the kids he is helping like little 9 yr old Rudy who was born with oxygen deprivation to the brain at 22 weeks. He struggled not only physically and mentally but emotionally from years of kids picking on him. Joseph provided Rudy 50 sessions of neuro biofeedback ($5,500) which has changed Rudy’s life. Rudy has not only improve his mental skills but is now playing soccer, riding a bike and socially interacting with kids. The results were so overwhelming that Rudy is starting his 2nd set of 50 treatments.
Any advice for other people who want to do something big for a cause?
Follow your heart and dreams. I remember on a number of occasions professional riders and others questioning Joseph on how could he possibly make this kind of trip? Even longtime riders said they couldn’t make a trip like this. Joseph would smile, look at them in the eyes and tell them that kids all over this country ride their bikes every day, and that he was going to ride his bike every day until he made it to the White House. Joseph completed his 3000 mile trip in 39 days, accompanied by a 5 car police escort through Washington DC to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Our greatest advice would be to never give up especially when it comes to helping others. You can ALWAYS make a difference.
Now that you’ve finished biking across America, do you have other plans?
Joseph: I plan to continue to raise money for disadvantaged kids. I will encourage kids to go forward with their dreams. Ask your parents, teachers, pastors etc for advice on how to reach your goals. Remembering that no matter what problems you are having in your life that you can still make a difference. There is no greater feeling than helping someone else and your community.
Thank you, Machado family, for sharing with us–and for all you’re doing to inspire others!