CRYSTAL LAKE – A Crystal Lake bike shop owner is about to embark on the bike ride of his life, but it’s the lives of others he’s more interested in.
Bob Olsen, owner of Wheel Werks in Crystal Lake, and nine other U.S. citizens will travel on a bike tour across Peru, making a variety of philanthropic stops along the way.
Organized by former Harvard resident and Ultracycling Hall of Fame member Lon Haldeman, the group plans to drop off biking supplies to a cycling director in Lima, Peru. They then will deliver school supplies and donations to several orphanages and schools along the tour route before finally donating their bikes to a town on the western edge of the country.
Beginning Nov. 4, the 771-mile bike route will start in the northwest city of Piura and end in the eastern city of Iquitos. The 19-day tour also includes 400 miles on a riverboat along the Amazon River, which will make frequent stops so the group can donate school books to local towns.
Haldeman began the charitable bike tours in 2003 after spending several years on solo bike rides across the county. Since then he has built two schools, donated money and supplies to several orphanages and helped countless others he met along the way. And at the end of the trips, the groups always give away their bicycles.
“I’ve been going [to Peru] since 1999,” Haldeman said. “I’d go there and build beds, do projects with them, and then in a roundabout way that’s how we got building the school. They needed a school in the region. That’s how all these projects started, just word of mouth.”
In an effort to make sure his work truly benefits the people of Peru, Haldeman’s tour group does all of the charity in person, rather than simply writing a check.
“We do hands-on type of things,” he said. “I’m not just passing it onto some other organization … that really touches a lot of people on our tour.”
Olsen will be making his second trip with Haldeman to Peru and said he’s excited about the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.
“To see it on the ground, it’s tremendous,” Olsen said. “To really see it and see what [Haldeman] has started doing with the fund, he’s really doing it hands-on.”
The fund, called FCP Global Outreach based out of the First Presbyterian Church in Harvard, raises about $10,000 each year for the trip across Peru.
Haldeman said he has no plans to end the charitable bike tours anytime soon, and he’s always interested in learning about new ways he can help the people of Peru.
“I don’t see why we can’t keep doing it,” Haldeman said “It keeps evolving. Some of the projects that were really big deals a few years ago have now gotten to the point where they are doing really well so we don’t need to put as much money into it. But we’re always looking for new things.”