Pedal power for Wounded Warriors
Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, July 17, 2012
They swam with dolphins, prayed with bikers and broke bread with fellow couch surfers. But the 50-day bike trip of Mike Buonaiuto Jr. and Nate Frankoski is more than a series of adventures.
The Florida Atlantic University students are raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that helps wounded veterans and their families.
“We both love God, love people and love America,” Frankoski said. “And the only way you can love America is to support those who have risked their lives serving this country.”
At each stop, the pair has solicited donations. People who were uncomfortable giving cash donations to strangers were encouraged to follow the journey at www.mikeandnate.com, then use a link on the site that directs patrons to the official Wounded Warrior website.
Buonaiuto and Frankoski started raising funds for the trip before they hit the road on June 25. One of the sources was the full-body spandex suits they have worn each day of the trip. They sold ads on the colorful suits.
The idea was to use as few of the collected funds as possible so that most of the money would go to the charity.
Since starting the trek, Buonaiuto, 22, and Frankoski, 26, have only paid for half of a meal. In the rest of the cases, bike maintenance, room and board were donated or bartered.
They traded garlic bread for mangoes and mangoes for peaches as they traveled up the eastern coast.
They found most of their accommodations through www.couchsurfing.com, a site where strangers open up their homes to people passing through.
Buonaiuto and Frankoski ran into a snag when they searched for a Beaufort County couch-surfing participant on their route. The site had no prospects in Aurora for Tuesday night so the guys had to pedal to Greenville to stay with a college student found on the site.
Buonaiuto and Frankoski will continue their ride today, stopping in Washington this morning before ending the day is Plymouth.
Frankoski said one memorable night was spent in Titusville. They had nowhere to stay and prayed for help.
Their prayers were answered when Buonaiuto and Frankoski met a few bikers who brought them to meet the rest of the motorcycle club.
“We prayed in a big circle of 25 bikers. They all pitched in and got us a room on Indian River (in Cape Canaveral),” Frankoski said.
When they woke up, they saw dolphins and manatees swimming nearby. Buonaiuto and Frankoski took off their biking gear and went swimming with the dolphins.
Buonaiuto’s and Frankoski’s goals are to bike 50 miles per day for 50 days and earn at least $50,000. Twenty-three days into the trek, they have raised more than $6,000.
“We’re doing our part. We also need people who said they’d help to do their part,” Frankoski said.