By Shelley Grieshop
Coldwater resident Gina Knapschaefer and two dozen others are preparing to set course on a 3,700-mile cross country bicycle trip to change the way America looks at global health issues.
Knapschaefer, a soon-to-be medical school graduate, will give three of the 50-plus lectures the bicyclists will give along the way on their coast-to-coast tour.
"Our goal is to bring attention to a variety of global health issues such as access to healthcare, HIV/AIDs, poverty and health and women's health," says the 27-year-old.
She is the daughter of Jack and Bonnie Knapschaefer of Coldwater.
The bicycle adventure is dubbed Ride for World Health 2006 (R4WH). The non-profit Ride for World Health organization was founded in 2004 by a small group of medical students who wanted to do something about the disparity of resources affecting access to healthcare universally. The 25 bicyclists participating in the trip include medical students, healthcare professionals and community representatives. Besides spreading global healthcare awareness, the group hopes to raise at least $250,000 for basic medical supplies for people in need around the world.
The riders plan to leave San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday and arrive in Washington, D.C., on May 22, weather permitting. Sponsors will provide basic needs along the way and at night the bicyclists will stay in the homes of hosts, in high school gymnasiums or on campgrounds.
If all goes as planned, the two-wheelers will be in Oxford on May 12, in Dayton the next day and in Columbus by May 14.
As they cut across 12 states on their lecture circuit, they will give healthcare talks at high schools, town halls, medical schools and other community organizations in key cities. The group hopes their speaking engagements, on a more personal level, will better communicate their message.
The ambitious riders will average about 100 miles each day. The students on the trip will gain school credit for completing the seven-week expedition during their three-month school vacation, Knapschaefer says.
Knapschaefer, who completed her undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Dayton, will graduate from medical school in June. She soon will head to Denver, Colo., to complete a three-year pediatrics residency. She says she plans to dedicate her career to serving the poor around the world to improve the health of underserved populations.
Even for the former Coldwater High School track, basketball and volleyball athlete, the ride will be a challenge, she says.
"The furthest I've ever ridden at one time was about 70 miles," she says.
Besides the once-in-a-lifetime experience, she'll likely gain some extra leg muscle, she says.
"Mom measured my calves so I can make the comparison when I get back," says Knapschaefer, who leaves today for the West Coast. "I've always wanted to do a cross country trip like this. I'm sure it's going to be fun."
-- More information on the riders and their journey can be found at www.rideforworldhealth.org.