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ENTM News : Elaina Grott bikes across America

Elaina Grott bikes across America
​Haley Checkley, Staff ReporterThe Exponent OnlineApril 17, 2013

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Five Purdue students and alumni will travel over 4,000 miles by bike this summer, all while raising money for Habitat for Humanity. 


Bike and Build, an annual fundraiser that partners with Habitat, begins May 22, and this year nearly 2,000 young adults will participate in the cause. The build features eight routes spanning 48 states, hosting bikers that raise awareness about affordable housing initiatives and take part in the construction of several homes along the way.  


Shane Flaherty, who graduated last semester from the College of Engineering, said he has been wanting to take part in Bike and Build for over two years and believes his experience this summer will be “mind-blowing.” 


“I knew I wanted to go corner-to-corner. Maine to Santa Barbara,” Flaherty said.  Once a member of Habitat for Humanity at Purdue, Flaherty understands the importance of affordable housing in America.  “Doing Habitat for Humanity through Purdue, you get to see different parts of the U.S.  You still see stuff from Hurricane Katrina.  You really see how important affordable housing is,” Flaherty said. 


Marcus Thompson, a Purdue student working for his master’s degree in cyber forensics, participated in Bike and Build last year and described the experience as the “biggest mental challenge you can imagine.”


“It’s terribly exhausting, but it’s the best summer you could ask for.  You make some of the best friends because they are going through it all with you,” said Thompson. 


Each rider has to fundraise a total of $4,500 before the start of the route.  Thompson has taken a different approach to getting the funds each year.   “Last year, I grew out my beard and stuck toothpicks in it and turned it into a ‘Guess How Many?’ game.  It was one dollar per guess,” Thompson said.  This year, he is selling his drumstick from his time on the World’s Largest Drum crew on eBay and partnering with Chick-Fil-A on Apr. 29, where from 5 to 8 p.m., a portion of the profits from customer’s meals will be donated to Thompson’s overall fundraising goal. 


Elaina Grott, a senior in the College of Agriculture and current president for the Purdue chapter of Habitat for Humanity, is passionate about the cause and said her family has been extremely supportive with this endeavor.  Grott said her biggest challenge won’t be the 70 miles of biking a day or beating the heat, but rather, remembering what the trip is for.   “It really is the best part.  Seeing people move in to the new homes.  Watching kids get excited about their new rooms,” said Grott.  “You have to remember you are there for the families.” 


But that isn’t to say the terrain and weather won’t be a challenge.  “Your butt really hurts.  You get chased by dogs.  You go up hills that seem like mountains.  The roads seem so long, but maybe that’s because you feel every bump and obstacle as you go over them.  But you also make some awesome friends while complaining,” Grott said. 


The Purdue riders have participated in the Bucket 100, a bike race that partners with Indiana University and spans from university to university, and Cover Indiana, a bike tour that starts in Lafayette, goes south through Bedford, Ind., and ends in Indianapolis.  However, they haven’t yet tried a bike ride that spans such a great distance or time period. 


To these five students, it is no sacrifice to give their whole summer to Bike and Build.  It is much more rewarding than taxing. 


Thompson said it best when he said, “Money is a proxy.  Right now, I can give my time but not my money.  Later in life, I’ll be able to give my money but not my time.”  


Full biographies of each participant are available to view at where you can track the status of each rider, read up on their blogs or donate for the cause.