Eagan father, daughter ride extra mile for charity

Jeff and Laurel Anderson plan to bike across America for Burnsville nonprofit

Jeff and Laurel Anderson of Eagan have participated in several bike races for charity. Jeff rode from Minnesota to Chicago a few years ago to raise money for AIDS research. (Photo submitted)

Jeff and Laurel Anderson of Eagan have participated in several bike races for charity. Jeff rode from Minnesota to Chicago a few years ago to raise money for AIDS research. (Photo submitted)

An Eagan father-daughter duo plan to go the extra mile – 3,200 miles to be exact – for a charitable cause.

Jeff Anderson, 51, and his 20-year-old daughter Laurel, plan to bike across the country on June 6 to raise money for Venture Expeditions, a Burnsville-based nonprofit that coordinates running, biking and hiking tours to raise funds for awareness and humanitarian projects abroad.

Their journey will begin in Seattle where Jeff and Laurel will join a team of 15 riders who will spend eight weeks cycling to New York City. The team plans to cover 80 miles per day and will be followed by a van that will carry their supplies. Along the way, the team will sleep in churches, schools and community centers, which will host fundraising events for the cause.

“I’ve dreamed of biking across the country for years, but didn’t know how to make it happen,” Jeff, who is deaf, said with Laurel interpreting. “I heard about it through my daughter and thought we would have an incredible time together.”

Jeff said he doesn’t expect his deafness will be an obstacle in meeting his goal. The trip isn’t the avid cyclist’s first long-distance bike ride. A few years ago, he rode from Minneapolis to Chicago to raise money for AIDS research.

Laurel followed her father’s footsteps last year when she cycled 500 miles across Minnesota to raise money for Venture Expeditions.

The Inver Hills Community College student discovered the nonprofit through her family’s church. Although she wasn’t an avid cyclist like her father, Laurel decided to meet the challenge because she strongly believes in the cause.

“I’m not super-athletic or passionate about cycling, but it’s a really worthwhile reason,” Laurel said. “I feel this is something I can do to engage in the world.”

By the end, Laurel was exhausted but felt a sense of pride knowing what she accomplished, she said.

Eagan resident Laurel Anderson, 20, biked across Minnesota last year to raise money for Burnsville-nonprofit Venture Expeditions, which organizes running, biking and hiking tours to raise money for awareness and humanitarian projects abroad. (Photo submitted)

Eagan resident Laurel Anderson, 20, biked across Minnesota last year to raise money for Burnsville-nonprofit Venture Expeditions, which organizes running, biking and hiking tours to raise money for awareness and humanitarian projects abroad. (Photo submitted)

Laurel said her trip across the state enabled her to see the landscape in more detail than driving in a car. She said she is excited to have the same view while traveling the country.

Knowing her father’s passion for cycling and charitable causes, Laurel invited him to join her in her journey across the United States.

The duo have already started training by hitting the gym and taking spin classes. They hope to take their training outdoors as soon as snow melts.

In addition to preparing themselves physically for the feat, Jeff and Laurel prepare for the mental challenges.

“On the first day, you feel good but by the second day, you’re tired and not as excited and sore,” Jeff said, recalling his ride to Chicago. “It’s challenging to still feel strong and not let yourself get tired.”

The team’s endurance will be tested by mountains, the possibility of poor weather and time. When times get tough, Jeff said he will remind himself of the reward.

“It’s remembering that we are so blessed here in America,” Jeff said. “We are hopefully making a difference.”

The Andersons’ trip aims to raise funds for two projects in Southeast Asia. The first will provide emergency medical supplies to Burmese refugees living in camps on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Burmese refugees have flooded Thailand and other nations for nearly five decades to escape oppressive militant rule.

The project also aims to provide education, tutoring and trafficking prevention training for children living in the camps.

The second project will support a community center in Thailand.

Jeff and Laurel hope to raise $6,500 for the trip. A portion will cover the cost of the ride, while the rest will go toward the Southeast Asian projects. The team as a whole hopes to raise more than $20,000.

All donations are tax-deductible and can be made under either Jeff or Laurel’s name at www.ventureexpeditions.org/page/donate-now.

This summer, area residents can follow the duo on Laurel’s blog, laurelsbikeblog.blogspot.com, and on their Facebook page, “Jeff and Laurel’s Bike Ride Across America.”

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