Bikes for Lesotho

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan Dibble By Susan Dibble

He's always been a bit of an adventure junkie, Dave Gorman admits.

Lombard's assistant director of public works has canoed through the Everglades, kayaked along the coast of Hawaii and competed in Ironman triathlons and marathons.

But the bike ride he and a friend took this past July across the mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa was his most challenging -- and satisfying -- trek yet. Gorman was helping to bring cycling and joy to orphaned children in a country where he served in the Peace Corps more than 20 years ago.

"Until this trip, I've never seen a bicycle in Lesotho," said Gorman, the founder of Bikes for Lesotho. "(Now) bicycling is in the news. Kids around the country know about bicycling. They all want bikes."

Gorman, who served in the Peace Corps from 1989 to 1992, said he regularly dreams of Lesotho and has maintained contact with friends he made there. He returned there on his honeymoon in 1996, and again in 2010 with his wife and two daughters. It was during that 2010 trip that he took note that a new road was being built across the interior of the country, that the old road was now paved, and that he had never seen a bicycle in Lesotho.

Two years later, after finishing a "century" 100-mile bike ride from Chicago to Milwaukee, he mentioned to his biking group that he was thinking of riding across Lesotho. His friend and fellow cyclist Jeff Teppema of LaGrange Park immediately declared that he would join him.

An Internet search turned up the [URL]Lesotho Cycling Association;[/URL], a new not-for-profit that had just received its first shipment of bikes from [URL]Mike's Bikes Africa Foundation;[/URL] in California.

Gorman learned that he could help by raising the $20,000 it costs to collect, repair and ship 500 used bikes in one shipping container. He and Teppema set to work, writing a pamphlet, creating a [URL]Facebook page;[/URL], talking to newspapers and scheduling presentations. They raised the $20,000 in three months and the first 500 bikes were sent out in May. Gorman now has funding to send out another 500 bikes, donated by [URL]Working Bikes;[/URL] in Chicago, in early November.

Biking in Lesotho

Gorman paid his own way to Lesotho and biked across the country on his wife's old mountain bike, not to raise funds, but to raise awareness, he explained. Teppema accompanied him on the trek.

"I knew that two Americans riding their bicycles through the mountains was going to cause a sensation. We did," he said, adding that the trip was reported by Lesotho's radio and TV stations and in newspapers.

The trip also was a boon to their fundraising efforts here, Gorman said. He's given two dozen presentations to service clubs and church groups, and received one large donation from a private foundation.

"I'm quite confident that if we did not do this ride, we would not now be looking at 1,000 bikes. The fundraising would be much more modest," he said. …