Man biking for orphans rides through Craig

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As a pastor, Jesse Johnson has always had compassion for children. While on a recent visit to Haiti to help a friend adopt a child, his heart went out to the great number of orphaned children he saw there.

"There were hundreds of children in the streets," Johnson said. "The conditions were terrible. They were dying of diseases."

That is what inspired Johnson to ride his bicycle from Seattle, Wash., to Miami, Fla., in the middle of a hot, dry summer.

He passed through Craig on Thursday afternoon and stopped at Packcenter Shipping to send off a video-disc of his progress.

"With the abundance of love that we have in this country, I knew people would help out," Johnson said.

Because of the help from sponsors, Johnson has been able to give 100 percent of the donations he receives to the orphaned children of Haiti.

As he travels from coast to coast, Johnson has received meals and hotel rooms from people and businesses interested in helping his cause.

Packcenter paid for shipping his disc, and in Salt Lake City, he was given a police escort.

Johnson said that Haiti has a high number of orphaned children because of an AIDS epidemic and widespread violence and poverty. Sometimes parents leave Haiti for a better life.

Johnson left Seattle on July 15 and is riding about 130 miles per day. His mother, his wife and their baby are accompanying him, driving a support van and taking videos of the trip.

He hopes to be in Miami on Aug. 23, making the trip about 4,500 miles total. On Sundays, he rests.

Johnson chose Miami because of its large Haitian population, and says the goals of the trip are two-fold.

"First is to raise awareness of the problem of orphaned children in Haiti," he said. "Second is to raise money for the orphans."

The money is slated for housing and medical care for the children.

Donations are accepted at www.bikeforhaitikids.org.

"When we get donations, I am so encouraged by it," Johnson said. "I encourage people to give small amounts. There is a Haitian proverb that says, 'Little by little, a bird builds its nest.'"

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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