You?ve heard many times of people walking, running or even biking across the nation, often for a worthy cause. But two Bend newlyweds decided to do something different ? they literally roller skied from the East Coast to the West Coast this spring, to help feed those in need.
Santi Ocariz, 25, and his wife Carolyn, 23, are semi-professional cross-country skiers who believed this would be a great way to incorporate their sport while fundraising for those in need, through the international relief and development organization Food For The Poor.
?It gives us a good feeling to know we are helping the less fortunate, but more importantly, we believe the focus is on how our efforts can improve the lives of others,? said Santi. ?It?s an ongoing task that we believe every Christian should try to focus on.?
With a whole lot of faith and the desire to raise awareness about the needs of the truly hungry, they packed their vehicle with roller skis, supplies and a camera, then drove from Hayward, Wis. to Charleston, S.C., the starting point of what would become a two-month journey that began on March 7.
With Santi and Carolyn alternating between driving and skiing, the person behind the wheel would cruise along with the skier, who traveled at a speed of 10 mph for about 10 hours a day.
Making their way through the southern states, and into the nation?s mid-section, the mountainous regions of Colorado and Utah, the couple said they visited more than 400 churches while on their westward trek. The pair also took time to speak with anyone who may have wondered what they doing were and why.
?It was eye-opening and heartwarming to experience all the wonderful hospitality and generosity of the people we encountered along the way,? said Santi. ?The journey was very difficult at times, but also faith strengthening. We?ve learned that we can only plan so much and that the final outcome is in God's hands.?
Once Las Vegas was in view, good friend Judy Krueger joined the couple for the final leg of their journey, which ended with Santi and Carolyn taking a splash in the waters of the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco on May 11.
?Our donors are the heart and soul of this organization. Without them, it would be impossible to help the hundreds of thousands of people we serve on a daily basis, so the adventurous and generous spirit of this couple is really something to be admired,? said Angel Aloma, executive director of Food For The Poor, based in coconut Creek, Fla.
?The Ocariz couple took it upon themselves to draw attention to the needs of the starving," Aloma said. "Because of their efforts, we have received financial support to feed 106 families for one year. Food For The Poor is so very, very thankful.?
Santi and Carolyn have since relocated from Hayward, Wis. to Bend, where they will continue semi-professional skiing with the Nordic Ski Team XC-Oregon. The couple says they also plan to continue their fundraising efforts for Food for the Poor.
Those interested in helping to feed the poor can visit http://www.FoodForThePoor.org/skiacrossamerica to make a secure online donation. Checks also can be mailed to Food For The Poor, 6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, Fla., 33073, using the source code 80316 in the memo field.
Food For The Poor, named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America.
The interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.