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Ending global hunger a goal of man’s cross-country ride

Jack Weinstein
Drew Marinelli, 26, of Anderson, S.C., stopped Wednesday in Craig to take a break on his cross-country journey. Marinelli, who began in Key West, Fla., in April and plans to ride to San Francisco, hopes his journey will generate support for the United Nations World Food Programme, a global hunger charity. Learn more about Marinelli and his ride across the country by visiting his Web site at www.onemanonebikeonefight.com.
Hans Hallgren

— Drew Marinelli hopped on a road bike for the first time about a week before he set off April 1 to ride 6,000 miles across the country to increase awareness and raise funds in the fight against global hunger.

A self-described all-or-nothing guy, the 26-year-old Anderson, S.C., native wouldn’t let the fact he wasn’t a cyclist deter him from his goal. And he’s more than halfway through his trek. Marinelli rode over Rabbit Ears Pass into Steamboat Springs at about 6 p.m. Saturday.

He said after working for two years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, West Africa, and watching young children die from malnutrition, he wanted to share his story. Marinelli called it an “eye-opening, mind-expanding, perspective-altering” experience.

“My life will never be the same,” he said.

Because of that, he said the main priority of the campaign is to increase awareness and raise funds to fight the problem he witnessed firsthand. He has been sponsored by five Rotary clubs based near his parents’ home in Aiken, S.C. They funded the cost of his bike, trailer and other items, said Bob McClure, chairman of international services for the Aiken Sunrise Rotary Club.

McClure said Marinelli is determined.

“He’s that sort of guy,” McClure said. “He feels the need. He wants to put himself in a position to make a few positive changes in the world.”

Through Friends of the World Food Program, a U.S. nonprofit organization that supports the Italy-based World Food Program, Marinelli is doing just that.

He has traveled more than 3,400 miles from his starting point in Key West, Fla. He said he could have chosen a shorter route but selected points where his friends lived or he wanted to visit. Marinelli has shared his story with Rotary clubs, churches, university officials and local media along his path.

His route extends northwest from Florida through Colorado up to Washington before heading south to end in San Francisco.

Marinelli will speak to both Steamboat Springs Rotary clubs today.

“This grass-roots campaign gives me an avenue and a window to tell them about my experience” with the Peace Corps, he said. “I felt I had the opportunity and responsibility to share what I’ve done.”

According to World Food Program’s Web site, there are more than 1 billion undernourished people in the world – those who consume less than 2,100 calories a day. That’s one in seven people, the Web site states. Last year, the World Food Program provided 3.9 million tons of food to 102 million people in 78 countries.

By the end of his journey, Marinelli will have visited 10 capitals in 15 states. He hopes to reach one million people through his efforts.

He will have endured some struggles to do so.

At 6 foot 9 inches tall and 235 pounds, Marinelli doesn’t exactly have the ideal frame of a cyclist. Inclement weather in Florida and Kansas and the three-day ride over the Rockies made things difficult. He rode more than 130 miles in a single day to reach Denver last week, his longest stretch thus far.

Despite the challenges – which also include solitude on the road, concerns about where his next meal will come from and whether he’ll sleep in a tent or if someone will put him up for a day or two – Marinelli’s resolve has never been in question.

“Every challenge I’ve faced has been succeeded by an opportunity or a person to get me through it,” he said. “No challenge has been too great to not get through. I’ve made it this far, and I’m sure I’ll make it the rest of the way. I’ll Dumpster dive if I have to.”

Steamboat Rotarian Grant Fenton is hosting Marinelli at his home. Fenton said it wasn’t a difficult decision.

“It sounded like a really interesting thing he was doing,” Fenton said. “Then we got to meet. He’s just a fantastic guy who really believes in making a difference in this world.”

Marinelli hopes to raise money for a nonprofit organization in the future. But first, he must complete his 6,000-mile ride, one that may not end until late September.

“I’m a firm believer that the hardest things in life are the most rewarding,” he said.

To donate to Marinelli’s cause, visit his Web site at http://www.onemanonebikeonefight.com.


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