Most of us probably had a “back to school” assignment as children where we were asked to write about, “What I did over my summer vacation?” This fall, La Center, Washington school superintendent Mark Mansell will have plenty to talk about if he was asked to complete the same assignment.
He is planning on riding his bicycle from Portland, Oregon across the country all the way to Portland, Maine or approximately 3,500 miles. “I enjoy challenges and I love to learn”, Mansell said. “Given the chance to attempt something like this is a very special opportunity that is extremely exciting.”
Putting in the miles is just part of the challenge Mansell is putting before himself. He is also a member of the La Center Lions Club and has decided to raise money for Leader Dogs for the Blind. “Given the time commitments of my job, I have not really been able to participate in many Lion’s functions beyond our local community. When my school board gave me a two month sabbatical, I jumped at the idea of working to support Leader Dogs”, Mansell said.
The goal is to raise at least $35,000 in order to help someone in need to receive a service dog. To achieve this goal, Mansell (with the support of his home club and interested clubs along the trip route) will work to secure nearly 1,000 sponsors as part of a “penny per mile” for Leader Dogs effort. All donations of $35 or more will receive a Cycling for Leader Dogs vest pin commemorating this solo cross-country bicycle trip.
Beyond the adventure and the opportunity to raise much-needed funds, Mansell sees in the trans-America journey something even more. “More than half of my nine years as a Lion I had no idea about Leader Dogs for the Blind.” Leader Dogs have served the blind and visually impaired for nearly 75 years providing more than 14,000 service dogs free of charge to those in need. “When I complete this journey, if you don’t know about Leader Dogs and the great work they do I will feel as though I have failed”, Mansell added.
Mark will leave his home in La Center, which is just north of Portland, Oregon on June 16th and he expects to be in Portland, Maine no later than August 17th. More information on the trip can be found on his website at “www.cyclingforleaderdogs.org”. He also plans on completing a blog chronicling his journey so those interested can follow along with Lion Mark. Donations can also be made through his website directly to Leader Dogs for the Blind.