Ever since he began volunteering at the soup kitchen at the Church of the Brethren in Westminster during high school, Peter Herrick said he's developed a passion for helping others. Now in his senior year at Loyola College in New Orleans, Herrick's love of service has taken him on a journey of 3,000 miles.
This summer, Herrick joined 38 other members of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, on a cross-country road trip from Washington state to Washington, D.C., all while raising money for and visiting individuals with disabilities.
Just a year before the trip, which took riders through more than a dozen states from coast to coast, Herrick didn't even own a bicycle. He said hearing about the message and the fundraising was enough to convince him that this was a worthwhile endeavor.
"It's been a dream of mine to do this trip ever since I joined the fraternity my freshman year," Herrick said. "I bought a bike and started training. Soon I fell in love with cycling."
In order to prepare for the ride, Herrick said, he had to be ready to bike an average of 80 miles a day, every day, over a 71-day period. He said during his first training ride, he rode 15 miles and was sore for days afterward. Soon, though, he began expanding his training rides until he was averaging about 100 miles a week.
Herrick's mother, Rebecca, said she felt a mixture of pride and worry when he first told her about his plans for this trip.
"I was terrified," she said. "People don't watch out for bicycle riders on the road. I was impressed with his goals and proud that he wanted to do it, but on the other hand, he is my only son."
While training, Herrick also had to begin his fundraising efforts, considering each rider was required to raise at least $5,000. He said a trip home and back to his church was incredibly helpful.
"After I finished my summer job, I came back to the Church of the Brethren, and I raised over $500 in just a few hours," Herrick said. "I was overwhelmed by the support of that group in particular."
To complete his fundraising, Herrick said he created a spreadsheet of every person he knew and began systematically soliciting donations from them. In total, he managed to raise $8,000 for the variety of organizations visited along the trip, with the entire group raising more than $600,000 in total.
The cross-country ride began June 7 in Seattle, with a 40-mile ride to Enumclaw, Washington. Herrick said that first ride was simple, but the second day kicked up the difficulty immensely.
"Day Two, we had to ride 125 miles over one of the highest continental peaks in the U.S.," Herrick said. "That's when the teamwork really had to help us out."
Each day, he said, they rose at about 5 a.m. to prepare for a 6 a.m. start. The group would cycle until about 2 p.m. each day, when they would stop and have lunch at a variety of centers for people with disabilities. While at each center, the group would have the opportunity to help out and meet with the centers' clients.
"That's what this trip is for. It's for us to go out and help and give a day of great fun and a memorable day to people across the country," Herrick said. "It also gave us a sense of empathy and understanding. The men who go on this trip learn to lead by example and how to be an ally to people with disabilities."
Though Herrick said the most meaningful experiences happened at each stop along the way, the ride itself featured its share of memorable moments. The only state along the ride that Herrick had visited before was Virginia, so, he said, each day on the ride brought new scenery and experiences. He said of the entire trip, Montana stuck out as the most beautiful state.
"We would climb 5,000 or 6,000 feet and see these breathtaking mountains and landscapes," Herrick said. "It overloaded me with visual stimulations. I felt so blessed."