Cyclists can work up quite an appetite, and as Memphian Tom Rand bikes on a 50-day Hunger Ride across the country, starvation will be on his mind.
Last month, Rand left from Charleston, South Carolina, on a bike ride intended to raise money to help African children. Rand, an advocate for the Christian-based relief organization Food for the Hungry, hopes to raise at least $100,000 to feed orphaned children with HIV/AIDS and start a school in Ethiopia.
"Two years ago, I went to Ethiopia with a friend. I saw the poverty and what life is really like," said Rand, who teaches fourth grade at the all-boys Presbyterian Day School. "My heart was broken over the things I saw. You can't forget that stuff."
During the trip, his friend volunteered at a clinic, and Rand said he watched doctors tell a 25-year-old woman that she was infected with HIV/AIDS. Rand also befriended a young boy who snuck into the clinic every day for two weeks.
"We called him Little Nebraska because he wore the same Nebraska sweatshirt every day. But it wasn't because he really liked Nebraska," said Rand. "That was all he had to wear."
After the trip, Rand knew he had to do something but didn't know what. The idea for the Hunger Ride hit him while he was on a four-day, 400-mile bike ride from Knoxville to Memphis.
"I have an adventurous spirit," said Rand.
He figures if he can ride 400 miles in four days, he can cross the country in 50. Throughout the school year, Rand has been finding sponsors for his journey. He held a benefit dinner at his church, and began selling T-shirts and armbands called Randbands.
"A fourth-grade boy in my class came up with that name," said Rand.
One Friday last month, Rand drove to Charleston. His bike ride kicked off the next day, and he plans to end up in Seaside, Oregon, by the end of the summer. From there, he'll fly home.
To prepare for his ride, Rand's been riding all over Memphis and putting in extra hours at the gym.
While his goal is raise money, Rand said he also hopes to raise awareness.
"HIV/AIDS is the greatest global crisis in the history of mankind," said Rand. "Thousands die daily, and I just don't think people here know about it. There's this mentality in the United States that we only need to help people here, but the poverty line is so different overseas."