Pedaling for Pages: Troop 33 bikes 500 miles to raise money for hurricane relief

While enduring a heat index of 110 degrees, Scouts from DeKalb's Boy Scout Troop 33 began a bicycle ride to raise money for hurricane relief. Their route began in Memphis, Tenn., and took them all the way to New Orleans, La. Though they spent more than two months training with long rides for physical conditioning, nothing could have prepared them for this. For the next seven days, they would bicycle from 45 to 80 miles each day with midday temperature indexes never dropping below 100 degrees. The searing heat and humidity created the most brutal conditions to bike in, but the Scouts stubbornly pressed onward. Special care had to be taken to maintain proper hydration levels, and they had to be constantly alert for symptoms of heat exhaustion. Their ride took them bicycling hundreds of miles through a tortuous southern heat wave to raise thousands of dollars to help rebuild storm-damaged libraries. The route took them from Memphis, Tenn. to Tupelo, Miss., where they followed the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, cutting diagonally across the state to Port Gibson, Miss., then finally south to New Orleans. Past fields, forests and farms, up and down hills, through sleepy little towns, hundreds of long steaming miles, overcoming several flat tires and a broken chain, the Scouts concluded their cycling adventure in New Orleans, which is often called the &#8220Big Easy.” While their ride was certainly &#8220big,” there was definitely nothing &#8220easy” about it. After a week of sweat and hard pedaling, they were rewarded with one day to visit New Orleans and the town of Pass Christian, Miss., where the Scouts had done relief work on earlier trips in December and April. Pass Christian is showing signs of progress with clean-up efforts, but in New Orleans, entire neighborhoods still are comprised of ruined buildings waiting to be torn down. At the newly restored Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Scouts presented a check for $3,000 at the national convention of the American Library Association. The presentation took place at the convention's ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of an audience of 10,000 librarians. After being interviewed by television crews, Scouts enjoyed exploring the 1,600 exhibit booths at the ALA convention. The ALA Hurricane Katrina Library Relief Fund will help rebuild libraries in the Gulf Coast region damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The fund stands at $370,000; of which $3,000 came from the efforts of some DeKalb Boy Scouts. Troop 33 began their hurricane relief efforts back in September; just days after the storm struck the Gulf Coast. They conducted fundraising breakfasts to raise money for the Red Cross, continuing their relief efforts by collecting more than six tons of critically needed supplies, which was transported to Mississippi and Louisiana during school vacations in December and April. During the December and April trips, Troop 33 Scouts helped cook more than 7,000 meals for victims and volunteers, conducted a Christmas banquet for homeless military families, helped operate a distribution center serving 400 families and worked at animal rescue centers in New Orleans. They also donated books to Pass Christian Public Library, several hundred Bibles to the Lutheran Disaster Relief Center in Biloxi and donated funds to Scout Troop 316 in Pass Christian. During the past 10 months Troop 33 has raised more than $13,000 to benefit hurricane-relief efforts. The Boy Scouts of America serve their communities year round. Millions of hours of service are provided by Scouts across the nation every year. Service has always been a part of Scouting. Challenge and adventure are a part of the program as well. Over the past 10 months, the Scouts of Troop 33 have done their best to combine adventure, challenge and service, while responding to the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. They became a part of that history and will always carry with them many powerful images of Hurricane Katrina's devastation and their own first-hand experiences of the enormous recovery efforts. More than 50 Scouts and parents took part in the various hurricane-relief efforts since September. Troop 33 is sponsored by First Lutheran Church in DeKalb. Visit the troop online at troop33 dekalb.org.