Pedal power helps heal in foreign lands

Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times MESA bikers aim to raise $65,000 this year to help send medical equipment to impoverished nations.

Attorney Kurt Anderson has ridden nine of the past 11 years for MESA.

And they’re off! After a stop at the Beaver Creek Reservation, Rotary riders zipped down Lake Street on their way to Cascade Park in Elyria, then to downtown Oberlin, and back to the Lorain County Regional Airport.

The 16-odd miles by bike from Avon Lake to Amherst didn’t seem to wind John Hill at all.

“You’ve got to understand — this is my 270th mile,” he laughed, stretching his legs Thursday during a break at the Beaver Creek Reservation Metro Park on North Lake Street.

Fifteen cyclists made a pit stop there during their six-day quest, which ranged 400 miles.

Starting in Oberlin on June 20, they pedaled to Norwalk, Huron, Oregon, Port Clinton, Sylvania, Toledo, and Sandusky before returning to Lorain County, circling back through Elyria to Oberlin again.

Every mile along the way rang in pledge cash for Medical Equipment Supplies Abroad, which sends much-needed beds, wheelchairs, dental supplies, exam tables, crutches, imaging machines, and more to nations that struggle to provide health care to citizens.

Kurt Anderson was a charter member of the ride when it was launched back in 2005 by the Elyria and Elyria Sunrise Rotary Clubs.

What started as a lark (a bet among professionals who wondered whether they could pedal all the way to Chicago) today has become the signature cause of the 63 chapters of Rotary International District 6600, which stretches along Lake Erie’s shoreline.

Riders raise enough to cover 60 percent of the very high costs of shipping medical equipment. That’s no small feat, as sending a container to Central America or Africa can easily range from $3,000 to $5,500, Anderson said.

Here’s how it works: When hospitals and clinics in Ohio are ready to dump medical equipment into the scrap heap, District 6600 rescues it. Rotarians find a lot that is in perfectly good condition — and while deemed obsolete in the States would be a godsend in a less developed country.

Take Nigeria, for instance.

The West African nation spans 357,000 square miles and is home to 92 million people but until recently there were only three kidney dialysis machines to be found there.

MESA recently shipped nine dialysis machines to Nigeria free of charge.

“That’s why this isn’t the Tour de France. This isn’t an endurance race,” Anderson said of the 11th annual MESA ride. “We do this because we care.”

MESA leader Bill Pepple of the Bryan Rotary chapter said knowing they can save lives pushes riders to go 50 to 60 miles per day, some even farther.

They collect flocks of bicycle-borne supporters along the route and stop every so often to greet fellow Rotarians.

Last year they managed to raise $46,000 for the cause. The goal in 2015 is $65,000.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.