April 25, 2009
By Rachael Zylstra, University Relations
EAST LANSING, Mich. - For the next 18 days three former Michigan State University football players will pedal their bicycles 2,000 miles to raise funds for an orphanage south of the border.
Grand Valley State University associate professor John Shinsky, NFL veteran Joe DeLamielleure and former Secret Service Director Eljay Bowron left Saturday (April 25) at halftime from the 50-yard line during the annual MSU Green and White football game at Spartan Stadium.
With the support of countless sponsors, the three, who were teammates in the early `70s, will bike about 120 miles each day. In addition, former MSU football coach Dick Comar will provide mechanical assistance and coaching throughout the ride.
The group will end its trip at the site of Ciudad De Los Niños De Matamoros, or City of the Children, an orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico, founded by Shinsky and his wife, Cindy. The team hopes to reach its destination by May 12.
Shinsky, who himself was an orphan at Parmadale Orphanage in Parma, Ohio, will fulfill his longtime commitment of helping other orphans when he opens the doors to the Matamoros facility this September. "I've always said, `I'm going to build a home for kids.' I didn't know when I was going to build it; I didn't know where, but I was going to do it."
Thirty years later, Shinsky met with individuals to discuss the state of an existing orphanage in Matamoros in 2005. Instead of being asked to help supply food and other essentials, he was asked to build a new facility on 17 acres of donated land. The orphanage will house up to 140 abandoned and abused children.
"We want to equip these young people so they can ultimately give back to those children in need in the community," said Shinsky, who has worked as an educator for 35 years. "This is more about empowering them than enabling them."
To help raise awareness and funds for the orphanage, Shinsky organized a charity bike ride in hopes of collecting the remaining $500,000 necessary to complete the 33,000-square-foot complex. All of the donations go directly to the orphanage.
A true Spartan, Shinsky's ultimate dream is to someday see some of the orphans attend and graduate from MSU.
"This is what Michigan State is all about," Shinsky said. "We're a land-grant university that reaches out to our communities; and this happens to be a project that reaches out to our global community. It represents what we stand for."
Shinsky and his teammates worked with MSU Bike Shop to help prepare their bikes and bodies for the trip.
Even though the men will get occasional relief from their teammates as two will be on the road while two drive a school bus donated by Kellie Dean of Dean Transportation Inc. and a vehicle donated by East Lansing dentist Craig Fedore, fatigue will naturally set in from the 120 miles the men will bike each day.
"Their fatigue is going to set in probably around day five," said service manager Jon-Marc Eyer, who trained the team along with sales and marketing coordinator Tim Potter, both of MSU Bikes. "But, if they keep their minds set on their goal - they're not going to have a problem."
The thought of helping fellow orphans, however, will be the fuel that gets Shinsky to the finish line.
"My mind and my heart are well prepared," he said. "We will see what my body will do."