‘Bean’ to ‘Big Apple’ bike tour to aid local organizations

Elizabeth Murray,  Special to the Reporter
May. 31, 2012

Bike ride to NYC will raise funds locally: Pete Stidman of Boston Cyclist Union, Viet-AID’s Nam Phan, and Phi Tran. Photo by Elizabeth MurrayBike ride to NYC will raise funds locally: Pete Stidman of Boston Cyclist Union, Viet-AID’s Nam Phan, and Phi Tran. Photo by Elizabeth MurrayTwo UMass Boston students are planning a 300-mile bicycle trip from Boston to New York City to raise money for the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (Viet-AID) in Fields Corner and the Boston Cyclist Union (BCU).  

Phi Tran, 20, and Chris Finlay, 23, both of Savin Hill, were originally planning to take this bike trip for fun.  After difficult semesters at school and stress from various extracurricular commitments, Tran said both he and Finlay needed to re-energize.

Tran is a member of the BCU Board of Directors. As he attended more meetings, he saw how much the union needed to raise money.  He also works as a Community Organizer for Viet-AID.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I turn this into a fundraiser?’” Tran said. “I let [Finlay] handle all the logistics, like he’s taking care of the bikes and taking care of the route and weather and gear, and I took care of the fundraising.”

Tran’s goal is to raise $4,500 for each organization.  The money for the BCU will go toward its summer projects like Bike To Market, which offers free bike tune-ups and sells $5 helmets from the Boston Public Health Commission and discounted U-locks.  The money for Viet-AID will be put toward providing scholarships to students from low-income families who take part in the Viet-AID Summer Program for Youth.

So far, Tran has collected $500 total, but he has been using emails and Facebook to get the word out and has set up fundraising accounts on crowdrise.com for both organizations.  The money collected on this website will be sent directly to the organizations after the bicycle tour.  

Tran has also planned an all-you-can-eat hot pot and sushi dinner on May 29 at 7 p.m. at Van Shabu and Bar.  Admission is $50, and half the proceeds will go toward the fundraiser while the other half will pay for the food at the restaurant.  Though it has been a slow start, Tran is hoping he will be able to achieve his monetary goal.

“I’m getting really kind of scared, but I think [we will] because I extended the fundraising until even after [the bike tour],” Tran said.  “I want to make a Youtube video or something before, and I’m going to try to make a documentary along the way, like take some videos along the way and do day-by-day updates.  Maybe we’ll stop by some libraries and post them up.”

When the Reporter asked Tran how he and Finlay had been physically preparing for the long bike ride, Tran responded, “That’s a good question,” with a laugh.

“We keep telling people, ‘We’re going to New York,’ but it hasn’t hit us yet,” he added.  “We’ve been slowly preparing, like listing out things we need, like new equipment, new gear. . .Other than that we’ve been biking a lot, a little bit more.”

Executive Director of the BCU Peter Stidman said he was excited when he first heard Tran’s idea to make the bicycle trip a fundraiser.  He said he took a longer bike ride like Tran when he was a younger man, and that bike rides like this are “character builders.”

“It’s exciting for us to be vicariously part of Phi’s journey,” Stidman said. “I was happy that Phi feels so strongly about the biking and that he would ride hundreds of miles for us. It’s also really great to bridge a little bit between the biking and Viet-AID and the Vietnamese community in Dorchester.”

Executive Director of Viet-AID Nam Pham is also an advocate of bike-riding as a form of exercise and environmental conservation.

“It not only raises money for our youth programs, but also lets people know of our contribution of young people like Phi,” Pham said.  “He does set a good example to our kids and also, personally, I think biking is a wonderful mode of transportation.  We should bike more, all of us.”

Tran said people should not only contribute to his fundraiser because it is a good cause but also because he is doing the long bike ride for all of those people who never done it themselves.

“If you donate, I feel like you can take part of it,” Tran said.  “In a way, I’m doing it for the people who have never done it, for the people who want to do it, for the people who really want to be part of something that is a little bit bigger than them in saying, ‘I helped donate to this awesome ride.’”

To donate, visit crowdrise.com and search “Biking from the Bean to the Apple” to donate to the BCU or “Scholarship for Summer School” to donate to Viet-AID.  For more information, please contact Phi Tran at phi@vietaid.org.