Nicole Bies, a first-year student in Occupational Therapy, read the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller in her Christian Vocations class at UIndy. That’s when she started dreaming about riding her bike across America. She has always had a heart for both cycling and service, she says, and she wanted to find a way to combine both loves. Aware of those passions, Nicole’s mom found information about the Annual Fuller Center for Housing Bicycle Adventure. The ride would go all the way from Savannah to Vancouver. Nicole’s dream became a reality, and this year, her summer of a lifetime began.
Cycling for Sierra Leone
Along with her bike, dubbed “Lexi,” Nicole rode with a group of cyclists who came together to ride for the Fuller Center. In 2012, Nicole had set off with a different group from UIndy—a Spring Term pilgrimage to Sierra Leone, a country on the West African coast. During that trip, Nicole fell in love with the country and its people, and it reignited a passion for service and gave her purpose. Riding for the Fuller Center, Nicole had the opportunity to raise funds to give back to the country she felt had given so much to her. She decided the best way to give back was to build a house.
“So when I found out that I could raise enough money to build a house for a poverty-stricken family, in the country that had brought my heart so much hope in a time of such doubt, I knew I had to ride across America,” Nicole said. In order to ride the whole way, Nicole was obliged to raise $3,700. And in order to build a house, she needed to raise $5,000. It was a daunting amount. But Nicole was up for the challenge. She wrote letters to family and close friends explaining her dream of riding across America for Sierra Leone, and asked for donations. Not only did she receive donations but also letters of encouragement. She carried those with her during the ride to serve as a reminder of the support she had back in Indiana.
The Bies family also drew on nontraditional fundraising methods to reach her donation goal. Nicole and her mother teamed up with a local pizzeria to sell frozen pizzas in her hometown of Evansville. Her mother participated in a Spring Fuller Center ride for a week and was able to raise $750 for Nicole. And around campus, you can still see one of her most popular fundraising techniques: the T-shirts she sold to her UIndy friends. “I had the idea that I wanted to sell T-shirts to close friends to make a bit of extra cash. So with the help of a lot of friends here and there we came up with a shirt design. “I only expected to sell 10 or 20, but to my surprise I ended up selling over 50 shirts! Friends and people around campus just kept asking if they could buy one as well. It was almost too easy to sell the shirts— they honestly sold themselves. It was a definite sign that this bike adventure was meant to happen.” The efforts paid off. Nicole raised enough money for the Fuller Center ride—and enough to build a home for a family in Sierra Leone.
Nine weeks in the saddle
Nicole’s cross-country ride took nine weeks of riding, on a route that took her through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, and British Colombia. The ride may have been on behalf of a family in far-off Sierra Leone, but this adventure was also about Nicole herself. Though she’s no longer riding her bike every day, she is fulfilling her passion for helping people and taking what she learned from her Fuller Center experience into her new adventure—OT school. “I learned to be patient with myself as I climbed mountains, just as I must be patient with myself in the classroom learning, or out in the field with clients.” Nicole hopes she can encourage her friends and family to embark on their own adventures, because she knows: nothing is impossible with the right amount of effort. Her words of advice? “Write a story worth telling. Find what makes you happy and do that, because honestly, what the world needs is more happy people.”
—Jenn Meadows ’14