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Range of Motion Project

Posted: July 15, 2012 - 12:05am
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This shot shows the legs and the bike that will carry Ben Robinson from Bellingham, Wash. to Brooklyn to raise money for the Range of Motion Project, a non-profit that fits needy patients with donated prostheses.
This shot shows the legs and the bike that will carry Ben Robinson from Bellingham, Wash. to Brooklyn to raise money for the Range of Motion Project, a non-profit that fits needy patients with donated prostheses.

Ben Robinson has two long legs that are about to take him on a journey that will raise money for those without. Robinson is riding his bicycle from Bellingham, Wash. to Brooklyn, NY with the goal of raising at least $1 per mile for the Range of Motion Project, a non-profit organization that fits patients in developing countries with donated prosthetics and orthotics.

Robinson had planned for some time to bike cross-country and he also knew he wanted to make the trip about more than adventuring through the U.S.

“It was sort of just everything falling together. Serendipitous. I had planned the bike ride, maybe around New Year’s was when I started talking about it, and I was hoping to find some organization to raise money but I had heard it could be complicated… this just sort of fell into place perfectly. It’s a very worthy cause and the more I learn about the organization, the more excited I am to help them out.” Robinson said.

The serendipitous epiphany was triggered when Robinson’s sister, B.J. Robinson, returned from a trip of her own.

“The way I got involved with it is that my sister couch surfed with this guy in Guatemala who is the founder’s brother, so she got to know him very well. And he, a couple summers ago, rode from Eugene, Ore., where he was going to school, to the clinic in Guatemala and raised a huge amount of money, I think $50,000. They had a bunch of big events along the way and he actually works for the organization.”

Riding for ROMP isn’t ingrained in the institution, at least not yet, but it is seems a fitting fundraising model for an organization focused on movement.

“So I guess I’m the first person not (employed by) ROMP who’s biking to raise funds for them. But hopefully, if this works well, they’ll do it in the future.” he said.

The organization has its roots in understanding the importance of prosthetics and orthotics.

“It was started by this guy named (David) Krupa, who is a lifelong amputee himself, from the Chicago area. He got out of college, wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, and ended up working at the clinic that had served him his whole life and kind of inevitably became passionate about prosthetics and orthotics and ended up selling all of his possessions and moving to Guatemala, and that’s where they opened their first clinic.

The main clinic is in Guatemala, but they serve communities worldwide. The Guatemala clinic is also so well established now that it is run entirely by Guatemalans, Robinson said.

“The (main) role of the U.S. now is donating prostheses. With a lot of NGOs, they’re there to help when the westerners are around, but then they have to go home, but instead this just runs year-round.”

That’s right. Donating prostheses.

“Their whole thing is to take donated prosthetic limbs from people in the united states, so when they are used but people have upgraded, and they fit them to needy amputees in the third world, where there’s much access to service.”

With technology ever changing, patients in countries like the U.S. have access to ever newer and better prosthetic limbs and orthotics. Now, when an upgrade is acquired, a person need not kick the old prosthetic leg to the curb — it can be donated to ROMP for use by someone without the same access to prosthetics and orthotics.

The donated prosthetics are currently being fitted in Guatemala and Ecuador, but there have been projects in Haiti, Pakistan and other countries around the world.

Robinson’s legs are taking him from Bellingham to Brooklyn over the course of two months. Since Robinson is paying his own way and any money raised on the trip goes straight to ROMP, he’ll be camping and couch surfing during the whole trip.

The warm beds and hot showers will likely be appreciated; Robinson will be riding 50 to 70 miles each day.

“No sleep ‘til Brooklyn,” Robinson joked, “Well, on the last day. I’ll sleep every other day.”

“It should take about two months,” he said, “That’s not, like, doing it fast, I talked to somebody who did the same route in 52 days, I’ll have some time to hang out. Go visit family. I’m shooting for about 50 to 70 (miles each day), it’s about 3,400 miles total, so that’s how much money I’m hoping to raise, $1 per mile.”

On top of the monetary support he has received so far, Robinson has had the support of at least one local business.

“I’ve gotten some good local support too, Cycle Alaska has helped me equip (my bike).”

At the time of the interview, the bike was getting tuned up and equipped at Cycle Alaska.

He’ll travel light along the way, carrying camping and cooking gear and as little else as possible.

“It’s pretty bare bones: a couple pairs of bike shorts, some sandals, I think I’m gonna bring a pair of jeans — that’s probably excessive.” Robinson said.

The jeans would be for the free time visiting family and friends along the way. Cue the jokes about day-to-day life in padded spandex. Another avid bicyclist in earshot insisted it’s not exactly a hit with the ladies.

Packing for the trip included a number of tough decisions.

“It’s all about weight, you have to carry it all.”

Robinson might have some help carrying that weight once Sarah Ginter, his girlfriend, joins him in Montana for the trip. Robinson said she’s into travel riding as well.

If you’re interested in the journey, Robinson will be blogging along the way. The site also offers a way to donate money for ROMP and a map of the route he plans to take.

Robinson boarded a ferry Friday to Sitka, where he’ll take in the Home Skillet Festival, then he’ll board a ferry again to Bellingham, where the real journey begins.

If you are interested in where Robinson’s long legs take him, or if you are interested in donating in his campaign, visit rompathon2012.blogspot.com.

If you would like to learn more about ROMP and its impact, visit rompglobal.org.

• Contact Neighbors editor Melissa Griffiths at 523-2272 or at melissa.griffiths@juneauempire.com.

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