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Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Grace Tidwell, a 2010 UF graduate, poses on a bicycle. Tidwell will be biking North Carolina to California, with Bike and Build, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing.
Grace Tidwell, a 2010 UF graduate, poses on a bicycle. Tidwell will be biking North Carolina to California, with Bike and Build, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing.

Grace Tidwell’s experience on two wheels didn’t expand beyond pedaling her “cheap” bike to get to class.

But the 22-year-old UF graduate is now gearing up for a trek much farther than any one Gainesville’s bike lanes have to offer.

Tidwell, a food science and human nutrition major who graduated last year, has been selected to ride 3,588 miles from North Carolina to California with Bike and Build, a non-profit organization that helps construct affordable housing for low-income families.

The organization accepts young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who pledge to raise $4,000 to benefit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and NeighborWorks, while riding along one of its routes during the summer months.

She has raised money for the trip by sending out letters and receiving donations from people who read her Facebook page and blog. Premiere Designs, a jewelry company she paired with for a fundraiser, has been donating half of its sales to the cause.

From May 13 through July 17, Tidwell will pedal across eight states, making stops along the way to help build homes and host presentations to raise awareness about housing issues.

Bicyclists will wake up at about 6 a.m. each day and will be required to arrive at their destination by 4 p.m. They will be provided with meals and will camp out or stay at churches, community centers or schools along the way.

Tidwell, a current first-year medical student at the University of South Florida, said this year marks her last “free” summer without school or working in clinics, and she wanted to do something meaningful with it.

“Housing is one of the most basic human needs and it’s a big problem for people in the U.S.,” she said. “I think that it’s an issue that should be important to everyone.”

To meet her financial goal,  she has been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Pinellas County since February, which she has chosen to receive a portion of the funds she has raised.

She was told to pack light; she is only able to take one duffel bag that will be housed in a van full of supplies following the riders.

“It’s going to be really funny,” she said. “I’m totally a girly girl. But I’ll be able to tough it out.” 

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