LOVELAND, Ohio -- For a group of at-risk teens, a 500-mile journey begins not with a single step, but with a turn of a crankset.
The 15 teens will spend the next eight days bicycling to Niagara Falls, through City Gospel Mission's Tour de Falls program. The trip helps teach the riders they, too, can dream big and conquer audacious goals.
Roger Howell, president of City Gospel Mission, said some don't get that kind of encouragement at home, like one girl who rode in a past trip.
"Her parents and her friends told her she couldn't do it," Howell said. "Absolutely -- 'You cannot do it.' And she rode her bike 510 miles and got off and said, 'I can do it.'"
I just talked to 19 yr old Fabian. His family immigrated to the US when he was 9, fleeing war in Tanzania. This will be his third trip with @CGMCincinnati. He says these trips taught him to never give up, & he can achieve large goals through hard work. @WCPO pic.twitter.com/3NaQy8IWgw
Like that girl, Fabian Bukuru also rode in a past trip. When he was 9 years old, he moved to the United States from Tanzania, with five brothers and five sisters, to escape warfare. His brother arrived first and helped the family adjust.
Now 19, Bukuru is focused on his education and strives for a career with the FBI.
"Nothing is easy. Everything is hard. And you have to finish what you started," Bukuru said.
The group, which also includes 20 City Gospel Mission staffers and volunteers, set off Saturday morning from the Loveland Bike Trail near Eads Fence Company. They'll pedal 55 to 72 miles each day -- the trip is 519 miles in all -- then stay the night at campgrounds and churches along the route.
They will reach Niagara Falls on Saturday, July 14 and take a boat tour on the Maid of the Mist before driving home.
The teens help raise the $500 it costs to take the trip.
"These kids are amazing kids," Howell said. "You know, I think people have stereotypes. They look at them and they go 'Wow those are trouble. I’m scared of them.'
"But they’re amazing kids and they can do amazing things just given the opportunity."
You can stay up-to-date on the group's journey with the City Gospel Mission Facebook page.