SCOTTSBLUFF — While people across America are soaking up the summer rays beside the pool or at the park, a group of students are traveling across the United States on bicycles as part of a campaign to raise awareness about access throughout the world to clean water.

Six college-aged riders, along with a team in two vehicles, started their journey in May. They started in California and are headed to New York. Jay Cummings, Kara Ingersoll, Daniel Burroughs, Nick Guido, Whitney Williams and Kody Schneider are the cyclists continuing the tradition of traveling across the country in pursuit of making clean water accessible to people around the world. The group is in its seventh annual Ride for Water excursion, raising money for charity.

“This year we decided to find a new way across the country, so we could reach different people who had never heard of Ride for Water,” driver Jameson Plaskett said. “We started about an hour north of San Francisco.”

As they rode out of California, their team goal was to raise awareness about the need for clean water access around the world.

“One of the biggest things for awareness we want to raise is there are 663 million people around the world who live without access to clean water,” rider Kody Schneider said. “In Third World communities and developing countries around the world, Charity Water works in 22 different countries and they fund clean water projects.”

Throughout their ride, they are fundraising with the goal to raise $80,000, which will fund drilling eight wells. As of Tuesday, they received donations totaling $11,342. That is enough to provide 378 people with drinking water.

While traveling over mountains and across the plains, Schneider said the biggest challenge is biking through the wind.

“Sometimes when we’re riding, we’ll get these huge headwinds and so there’ll be wind coming straight at you,” he said. “That can be pretty tough trying to fight against winds at 15 to 20 miles per hour.”

Throughout their journey, Schneider said it gives time to reflect on the privileges he has that he takes for granted daily.

“There’s so many things we take for granted, especially water,” he said. “In America, we are so blessed. We can wake up everyday and take a hot shower, we have water for cleaning and cooking. There are people around the world who don’t have that.”

After learning about how many people struggle to find water every day, Schneider said it was eye-opening.

“For me, it was kind of like a gut punch. You look at numbers like world hunger and you think that’s just a number. It’s just a statistic. Then you realize those are people.”

One of the obstacles the cyclists face as they travel is making it through road construction as their riding lane, the shoulder, becomes merged with traffic. Regardless of the conditions, the riders enjoy taking in the sights. For Whitney Williams, her favorite portion of the journey so far was in Morgan County in Utah heading into Wyoming.

“We were flying down the mountains there,” she said. “That was the most beautiful day for me. It was definitely a hard climb to get out of Utah and once we got to the top and started biking down, we saw a lake and everything was so green.”

Williams said the vibrant colors reminded her of the movie “The Sound of Music.”

Fellow bicyclist Jay Cummings said the team’s goal once they reach New York is to inspire people to action.

“By New York, I would hope that a lot more people know about the problem and know they can play a part in the solution,” Cummings said. “Anyone can help.”

As they continue bicycling across the states to raise awareness and fundraise, Cummings said it is hard to imagine helping people he will never meet.

“It’s sobering. Oftentimes, on our trip we’ll be like ‘Hey, guys we just got a $1,000 donation. Try and picture the 370 people.’ It’s hard to fathom the fact that we’re changing that many people’s lives just by riding our bicycles.”

Schneider added that the donations help motivate them to continue their journey.

“When the days get tough and I don’t want to pedal anymore, I just remember why I’m here. Literally every time we get a donation, we get an email notification and we all cheer. It’s really cool to do that while on the ride.”

Over the weekend, they made their way through Wyoming and into Nebraska. After arriving in Kimball, they headed to Scottsbluff where they had some time to explore local attractions.

On Tuesday they headed out of Scottsbluff to continue their journey in Kimball toward Ogallala as they pedal to provide clean water for 663 million people. Donations to the cause can be made on the Charity Water website at rideforwater.com.

Since the first Ride for Water teams rode across the country in 2013, over $350,000 has been raised.

Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald and the Gering Courier. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.brant@starherald.com.

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