After a long bike ride that includes mentoring up to seven riders, a group of adventurers will sit down to a long discussion of Aristotle.
Matt Friedlund, Marty Ethington and Ashley Haynes, will pedal out of Jacksonville, Fla., on Monday, leading a group of about a dozen riders on an educational and philanthropic journey along the southern and western edges of America. They plan to conclude their trek in Seattle on May 24.
The group is called Young Philanthropists and the trip is called the Young and Wild Expedition of 2013. According to the group’s website, www.theyp.org, the trip is meant to carry out four core missions: Inspire, Explore, Connect, Celebrate.
The trip fulfills a dream of Friedlund, 25, a graduate of Coventry High School and Huntington University, a Christian college in Indiana.
The other leader participants are:
• Ethington, 25, a longtime friend of Friedlund and also a 2006 Coventry High School graduate. A graduate of Muskingum College, Ethington recently finished a 16-month stint as an English teacher in South Korea.
• Haynes, who turned 25 on New Year’s Eve. She is a 2006 graduate of Northwest High School from Canal Fulton and a senior at Kent State University.
A group of seven 18- to 25-year-olds will ride with the three local leaders. Each needed to raise an estimated $3,000 for food and supplies needed along the route.
Along with that money, riders hope to raise about $35,000 during the five-month journey to help provide food and after-school activities to a slum area in Honduras.
Ryan Conley, 22, a 2009 Green High School graduate, is one of the students taking part in the trip. He has spent a year at Stark State College studying biotechnology, saying his life bottomed out after high school when he had alcohol issues.
“I made a decision to stop all those things, got clean and got God back in my life,” Conley said.
He learned of the trip through social media and a connection with Friedlund and the Cottage Grove Evangelical Church.
“I have high aspirations for where I want to go in life,” said Conley, who added he is excited for what lies ahead. He said he hopes the long educational and public-service trek will “kick start” the rest of his life.
“I think I will be a completely different person, not only physically but spiritually,” Conley said, and that he might even know what the next chapter of his life will be upon completion of the adventure.
Friedlund said that along the way the travelers will perform acts of community service in the towns they visit. Among the planned deeds are working at soup kitchens and helping Habitat for Humanity home builds.
They also will connect with elderly people — mainly through churches and local friends Friedlund knows — who need help with tasks around their houses, he said.
Some examples, he said, include working with children, helping fix up a building and working on urban gardening in New Orleans.
Near Santa Cruz, Calif., the group will work with a local nonprofit called Just Dig It to raise money for water wells in Ghana, he said.
The group will gather pledges along the way for the Honduran fund and will host events, including dinners, speaking engagements and youth seminars, Friedlund said. Students will study and discuss rhetoric, business/economics, leadership, English, religion and other topics while riding and camping.
Ethington said he had been thinking of applying for the Peace Corps when he was winding up his teaching contract in South Korea. Then he spoke to Friedlund, who told him about the planned educational trip.
“What drew me to it, honestly, was the community service aspect of it,” Ethington said.
Haynes has known Friedlund most of her life. She went to his church, where his father, the Rev. John Friedlund was pastor. Conley also attends Cottage Grove Evangelical Congregational Church.
Haynes manages Reliable Cleaning, her father’s janitorial service company out of Akron. She is about a year from graduating from Kent State University with a degree in marketing.
She was enrolled in the spring semester, until mid-December, when she decided to take a leap of faith and take the bike ride with Friedlund.
“I think it is one of those things that will probably be the biggest learning experience of my entire life,” she said.
Friedlund, who has spent time living on the streets in Indianapolis, has worked as a mentor to young people since he was in junior high school. He currently lives in Baton Rouge, La.
He said he hopes this experience will help all those who participate and is sure the experience will look good on resumes and on college applications.
“You have to push yourself,” he said.
Donations to the cause may be sent by check to: Young Philanthropists, 50 E. Philadelphia Ave., Boyertown, PA, 19512. Friedlund may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 484-553-7557.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at email@example.com.