Eight years ago, Kevin Hanson found himself at a crossroads.
After spending 40 days in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, he was determined to make a new start. And he was prepared to take extreme measures.
That’s when he heard about an intense bike ride that had been dreamed up by his friend Ian Long to raise money to build houses for families in poverty. Ian and a few other riders had been training for months. And the inaugural ride – stretching over 200 miles from Phoenix to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico – was just around the corner.
Kevin was just getting back on his feet. He wasn’t an experienced bike rider. But he had the audacity to ask if he could join them anyway. Against all odds, they said yes.
Image: Approximately 86 miles into a 200+ mile journey to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.
Little did anyone know at the time that this ride would become a huge annual event called Bikes Fight Poverty, bringing together more than a hundred riders and their families, plus an army of volunteers and supporters, all working toward a common goal: putting more families in houses of their own.
Kevin is one of a handful of riders to have pedaled every mile of every ride from the very beginning. And he’ll tell you he’s a different person now because of it.
“The ride is awesome because it’s an easy connection point to what God is doing through 1MISSION,” he says. “It’s all about getting outside yourself, doing what we’re called to do – loving God and loving others.”
At first, the ride represented a significant personal accomplishment for Kevin at a crucial turning point in his life. It was a meaningful challenge, a cause to believe in that was bigger than himself.
Images: Kevin (in blue) making his way from downtown Phoenix to Puerto Peñasco this past February.
Then he started inviting others to join Bikes Fight Poverty as riders, supporters, and volunteers. Soon it became a shared adventure, a shared mission. “A lot happens off the bike,” he says. “Besides the riders, a whole other subculture has been created, from cooks to SAG and other volunteers. That’s been a big home run.”
Most of all, though, Kevin will tell you about the families he has gotten to know while serving on house builds in Mexico. Despite the language barrier, working side by side throughout the building process, he says, has a way of “breaking things down to the bare essentials of human relationships.”
“The house itself is huge for the family,” he says. “But the building process is the bridge that wouldn’t exist between us otherwise.”
Kevin acknowledges that the challenges facing families in poverty are real and complex. “Poverty isn’t something that can be solved in a day or two. And it definitely can’t be solved by riding a bicycle 207 miles or by simply building a house.”
He knows better than to expect transformation to occur overnight. He knows change takes time. And he’s in it for the long haul.
This February, Kevin and 120 other riders participated in our ninth annual Bikes Fight Poverty ride. Altogether, they have raised an amazing total of $163,494 to put families in houses, with 100% of donations going directly to projects and programs in the field. But there’s still time to give and help them reach their combined goal.