REGION - Three brothers with one goal and two charities rode their bicycles through the Lake Region last week. While on a 3,500-bike ride, Dennis, Bobby and Raleigh Jenkins traveled from Seattle to New York City averaging 70 miles a day, rain or shine over the course of 50 plus days, driven to raise awareness and funds for two charities that they hold dear to their hearts.
The brothers’ father, Bob Jenkins started ABC Home & Commercial Services and today, each brother owns and operates a branch of the business out of Dallas, Austin and Houston Texas by offering pest control, heating and air conditioning services.
In the name of Bobby’s grandson John “Moss” Pieratt Jr., who passed away at 15-months-old from what is classified as sudden unexplained death in childhood (SUDC), the Moss Pieratt Foundation was created. When Moss was put down for a nap three years ago, he never woke and there is no explanation as to why. In collaboration with the Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Foundation, the two charities are trying to raise funds for research to find an answer since a child can’t “die for no reason” Bobby said.
Currently, Bobby said SUDC is the fourth “classification of death for children” ages one to four years old. With there being no explanation, “it is truly heart breaking.” As the brothers made the way across the country, they met families with similar stories. Their trip ended Thursday in New York City because that is where the SUDC foundation is based and the founder was going to join the brothers’ as they rode from the George Washington Bridge to their ending in Battery Park. With no government funding for research, Bobby said the money raised will go for research. Dennis said, “No parent should outlive their child.”
A Child’s Hope
The brothers’ second cause, A Child’s Hope was established shortly after Raleigh returned from a business trip to Haiti following the earthquake in 2010. Although Raleigh went there for pest control work, he left with images of homeless children in the streets and pregnant 12-year-old girls.
Unable to forget what he saw and later learned about the children in Haiti, Raleigh purchased nine acres of land, built a building and installed five community wells. Soon, there will be solar panels for electricity at A Child’s Hope and a system for farming on the land. Currently, there are six children at the orphanage with the dream to someday have 320 children.
Through A Child’s Hope, Dennis explained that the children aren’t adopted or placed in homes, but rather, they are raised at the center, where they receive an education and are raised so one day they can hopefully become the “leaders of Haiti.”
The idea, Raleigh said is that the children will be able to live in a self-sustained community as they do “great things” and are able to contribute to their community. Rather than relying on donations, Raleigh is looking at other ways to fund A Child’s Hope, such as selling 22,000 pounds of Haitian coffee that was delivered to his home in Texas. The coffee, he said is one of the “mechanisms” to be used to fund A Child’s Hope, as well as mission trips, where people in the United States will see how the children in Haiti are living to have a “true missionary experience.”
Dennis wasn’t concerned when A Child’s Hope was first thought of, because if Raleigh has a goal, he is able to overlook the obstacles. Raleigh acknowledged that they have never taken on such an endeavor but, “somehow its worked out great.” The first building at A Child’s Hope is Moss Hall, which has Moss’s blanket in the building’s foundation with his picture hanging in the building. Bobby said, “Our angel is watching over those sweet children in Haiti.”
3,100 miles and going
When in the Lake Region, the Jenkins’ were at about 3,100 miles as they rode along the northern tier of the country, eventually traveling on Rt. 6 with stops in cities such as Minneapolis and Des Moines. The brothers made a point to get to Des Moines because a business associate had a fundraiser for them that raised $22,000, which Dennis said was “pretty cool.”
The many natural beauties of the country were something that amazed each brother, with Bobby saying Pennsylvania was the most surprising state as it is “absolutely gorgeous” and Rt. 6 was a “wonderful road to ride on.”
As they traveled across the country, peoples’ generosity surprised the brothers, as people handed them $40 because of their story. Whether they received a free meal or a donation, everything Raleigh said was going to the charities.
Physically, the many hills were a challenge and when in Pennsylvania on the 50th day of their ride, there were just two days before they arrived in New York City. Every day, seven days a week they rode, but when in Minneapolis they did take two days off when their wives visited. But, getting up every day, knowing they were going to be riding 70 miles, that is something that was tiring in itself Bobby said.
Not the first time
While this was the brothers’ longest bicycle trip together, it was not their first. Actually, Bobby first rode from San Antonia to Canada in 1981 with friends, and then, when he turned 50 in 2008 he decided to do it again this time asking Raleigh and Dennis who trekked the 2,300-mile trip from Austin to Canada for three charities that Dennis said were his “motivation.”
Since their last trip, Dennis said things “happen in your life” such as the earth quake in Haiti and the passing of Moss and so, those situations made this ride not about the ride, but rather “about the why” since parents have lost their children and children have lost their parents. They were peddling to raise awareness and resources because “there’s passion in every push” Raleigh said.
Riding in a vehicle covered with the logos of sponsors throughout the trip was Chelsea, one of Bobby’s two daughters as well as their mother Sandy. During the trip, Chelsea managed the public relations, reaching out to the media that included Good Morning America and then securing rooms to stay at. Chelsea arranged for surprise guests who would fly to wherever the brothers were and spend a night, such was the case in the Lake Region when one friend arrived at the motel while the brothers were interviewing for this story.
Traffic scary at times
The entire trip, the brothers rode generally eight inches apart, single file most of the way. When a vehicle was near they let each other know, because they had a “good system” Dennis said. Traffic at times was “scary,” as cars flew by at 65 miles an hour. But, there were no issues as the brothers used mirrors, and teamwork was essential as the last person would tell if a car was coming up from behind. A good “mental acuity” was key because awareness of the road conditions was necessary too as some areas had shoulders and others suddenly did not. If there was no shoulder, legally Bobby said cyclists can ride in the lane if necessary. The majority of motorists, however, were nice.
Rather than shying away from telling of Moss’s passing, Bobby said he enjoys talking about his grandson because he is also raising awareness. Talking about Moss to educate others, is their “new mission in life” Chelsea said, as they want to find answers and honor him. The Moss Pieratt Foundation had its first conference earlier this year in New York City, where families met and shared their stories. While it was “heartbreaking,” Bobby said they were “able to bond.” Then, there was a medical conference with medical professionals talking about SUCD. Bringing families together, is “critical for sanity” as the families can support each other.
As of last Wednesday, the brothers had raised about $300,000 and they hoped to reach $500,000. If at any point a brother wanted to quit, Bobby said that was never an option, but there were some days when the ride was tougher than the last but no matter, they knew they were going to ride 70 miles a day.
There were a few lessons the brothers learned from the trip, such as Bobby said his faith in people was restored as many were interested and supportive of what the brothers were doing. The other lesson was how beautiful the United States is, seeing “countryside from a bicycle is the best way.” Each state offered something different, as Iowa had cornfields and barns, but Washington had mountains and the little area of Idaho that they rode through in a day was “incredible” too.
Being such close brothers, Dennis said it was hard to say they learned anything new about one another. While the end of the trip was nice to see, he would miss being with his brothers every day because that part of the ride was “fun.”
Once they arrived in New York on Thursday, the family was flying home on Monday and planned on returning to the office Tuesday. The teams at each of their offices are a part of their family said Bobby, and so, they were part of the reason the brothers were able to make this trip as they were able to stay in touch via various technological tools.
Although their trip would soon end, and Dennis had to promise his wife he would not make another trip like it, Bobby said their work to raise awareness and funds for the organizations “will be a lifetime.”
For more information about the Jenkins brothers visit www.brothersbike.org.