If riding 3,100 miles coast to coast in one week with a tag-team of cyclists isn’t enough of a challenge, imagine facing a bit of an uphill financial climb of raising $300,000 to boot.

So is Campus Life Middle School director and cyclist Tim Hoeflinger peddling a bit of pedaling, daydreaming craziness or what?

He smiled at the idea and nary broke a sweat during a recent chat. Hey, it’s not about him, mind you.

“God planted this dream in my brain three years ago,” Hoeflinger said.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

He referred to the Race Across America event June 17 to 24. Teams of cyclists will throw one leg over the seat of their determination and ride from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis, Maryland. En route, they will pass through Columbus on the way to Bloomington.

The local team will use the race as a fundraiser for its Dolby Endowment Fund for the nonprofit Southern Hills Youth For Christ, which operates Campus Life. And that’s why organizers are publicizing their push now — to maximize monetary support and to gradually build awareness.

Hoeflinger has assembled an eight-person squad to make the journey, one rider at a time, day and night.

The ministry with a Columbus office will use the event to build more support for its work to reach local middle- and high-schoolers in Bartholomew County.

“I thought this event would be a great catalyst,” Hoeflinger said.

Youth For Christ currently works via after-school meetings and related activities at Central and Northside middle school and Columbus East and Columbus North high schools to nurture Christian faith in young people. It also aims to train student and adult leaders to be in encouraging relationships with teens. Leaders hope to see its work expand.

Ideally, Hoeflinger, a Columbus resident, is hoping to see some people unroll their money to pledge as much as $100 per mile. Yet, he understands that every donation, no matter the size, can be turned into hope for pre-teens and teens to know God’s love.

Jennie Hession, executive director for Southern Hills Youth For Christ, said that is a central focus of the effort.

“So many kids can feel hopeless in our world today, even though that may be hard to believe with all the material wealth that young people see,” Hession said. “But some of them may not feel loved.”

Alec Burnett, a local Campus Life student leader under Hoeflinger’s direction, understands the severe importance of young people’s need for love. So he has made the publicity element of the effort his Columbus East High School senior project this summer for the next school year.

“There is a lot of pain among middle school and high school students,” Burnett said. “And it’s great for them to have an outlet where they can find help.”

While young people aim to make their way through life, the cyclists during the race will navigate through three mountain ranges amid 13 states.

Dan LeClerc is one of those on Hoeflinger’s riding team. He has participated in similar efforts, pedaling alongside Columbus’ cyclist Troy Love in 2010 for part of Love’s cross country cycling journey for another ministry effort.

“The easy answer as to why I’m doing this would simply be that I’m a poor decision maker,” said LeClerc, known for his humor.

But he also is known for his passion for adventure and ministry.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” LeClerc said.

“And Youth for Christ has had a powerful impact on teens’ lives for a number of years. It’s an honor to be part of establishing an endowment fund that will help sustain YFC for years to come.”

Hoeflinger has been in ministry long enough to know he should avoid stressing over fundraising or related matters. So he will rest in God’s care, no matter what.

“God owns it all anyway,” Hoeflinger said. “And he’s the one who planted this vision in my heart.

“If he wants it to happen, it will happen.”

About the race and how you can help

What: An eight-person team of cyclists will represent Southern Hills Youth For Christ Christian ministry in the Race Across America set June 14-21, stretching from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis, Maryland.

Why: The goal is to have supporters pledge $300,000, spread over three years of donations, for the ministry’s endowment fund. This is the first phase of an overall goal to eventually reach the $1 million mark for the fund in the future.

About Youth For Christ’s mission in this area: It reaches middle- and high-schoolers in Bartholomew, Monroe and Owen counties.

How you can help: By pledging or donating at: Campus Life, P.O. Box 1527, Columbus IN 47202 or at southernhillsyfc.org.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.