Pedaling Compassion

EC native biking from coast to coast to raise funds for Syrian kids

Katy Macek, photos by Andrea Paulseth

WHEELIE GOOD IDEA. Eau Claire native Matthew Boelter wants to raise $10,000 for Save The Children.
WHEELIE GOOD IDEA. Eau Claire native Matthew Boelter wants to raise $10,000 for Save The Children.

Matthew Boelter doesn’t consider himself to be an avid biker.

He took an overnight bike tour trip one weekend out in Washington, if that counts.

But this summer, the 22-year-old Eau Claire native is setting out on a 4,225-mile bike trip across the United States, all in the name of Syrian children.

“This is a way I can really help make steps toward solving an incredibly complex and difficult issue the country is facing – or at least relieve the children in Syria of some suffering,” Boelter said of what he’s dubbed the Thought for Food Transcontinental Fundraising Bicycle Tour.

One of his goals is to raise $10,000 by Aug. 30 for the organization Save The Children, which helps children in developing countries such as Syria. He’ll set out on his bike on May 1 in Yorktown, Virginia, making his way to Astoria, Oregon, where he hopes to be by Aug. 7.

Boelter has been following the war on Syria since it began in 2011. He has read countless articles, but one that stuck out to him described how children in that country were forced to eat garbage to stave off hunger.

“That really had a profound impact on me, especially when reflecting upon my own life and how good I and many others around me have it in the United States,” he said.

Coupled with his ambition to use his college education to do something worthwhile, Boelter began brainstorming how he could help. In Decorah, Iowa, where he attended Luther College, Boelter met two students who had been refugees from Afghanistan. They fueled his desire to help in some way.

Matthew Boelter
Matthew Boelter

His journey will follow the U.S. Bicycle Highway’s TransAmerica trail from east to west across the country. He chose this route because it covers the most states.

His second goal is to speak with as many people from as many different walks of life as he can to try to learn and understand multiple viewpoints and share those with whoever follows along.

“I wanted to figure out a way to promote understanding and compassion rather than trying to push my political ideologies on others,” Boelter said. “But more importantly, I want to encourage open and respectful dialogue between everyone.”

While his mission is to raise money and awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis and advocate acceptance of refugees in the United States, his ideals also apply to other issues happening in the U.S.

With a country that, in his experience, is staunchly divided on many issues, open lines of communication and understanding are more important than ever.

Boelter is funding the trip completely on his own, so 100 percent of the funds raised will go toward Save The Children.

It could be easy to think those children as “being too far away to matter,” but there are issues, such as homelessness, in Eau Claire that matter just as much.

“Every single little action does add up,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be something as elaborate as what I’m doing. I really want to show people by my own actions that doing things and making a positive change in other’s lives and in your own is really about simply choosing to do so.” 

Boelter is holding fundraisers from 6:30-8:30pm Friday and Saturday, April 7-8, at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire. More information about his trip and his cause can be found at www.facebook.com/thoughtforfoodtour. Donations can be made via Boelter’s personal donation page at savethechildren.org/refugee/thoughtforfoodtour.

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