Brothers to pedal for charity

By Sara Adams

For many, the thought of granting three wishes is something to be left in storybooks. But to some children in Illinois and Wisconsin, their genies in a bottle will be NIU professor Todd Buck and his brother Bob.

The Buck brothers are planning a 4,500 mile biking tour from Lombard to Fairbanks, Alaska to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They set off May 22 and are expected to return the week before school starts. The pair hopes to raise $30,000 in pledges or enough for each of them to grant three wishes.

“The average cash cost is about $5,000 [for a wish],” said Jessica Miller, marketing and communications manager for the Make-A-Wish Foundation Chicago chapter. “Some cost way more than that, some are not as much.”

Todd, who is an assistant professor in illustration, has done several cycling trips in the past, but never any of this scale.

“For some reason I got in my head that it’d be just so cool to pack up everything you needed on your bike and just pedal out of your driveway,” Todd said.

The idea for the trip came up nearly 10 years ago and was brought up on a fishing trip the brothers took together. A mid-life re-evaluation caused Bob to bring it up again, and the brothers decided it was something they needed to do.

“I’ve gotten into the philosophy of – if you want to do it, do it now,” Todd said. “Stop living like you have a 1,000 years to live … we got past all of our procrastination techniques, and we’re going [to] go for it.”

Though the brothers were now motivated for the trip, the thought of a three-month vacation was a bit self-indulgent to the brothers.

“It’s such a long, selfish undertaking,” Todd said. “To leave the wife and the house and the bills and the lawn and all those things for that long. So we decided ‘What if we’re not doing it just for ourselves, what if we were doing it for a cause?’ and that seemed to lighten the guilt.”

Bob, who graduated from NIU in 1984 with a degree in marketing, is looking forward to meeting people and seeing the sights along the way, but he also sees the trip as a challenge.

“There will be physical challenges because of my age,” Bob said. “I have not been very physical all my life. I used to bicycle a lot when I was younger, but not when I’m older. I’m 45 years old and I’m kind of a couch potato.”

Todd is also looking forward to meeting people and said there is something about riding a bike that sets it apart from other means of travel. Biking is the best way to see the world, Bob said.

“The sensation is so different,” he said. “When you’re riding, your senses are kind of heightened. You smell everything, every road kill, every cow. And you feel the wind and you feel the rain and you feel the hills, and you don’t even notice them in a car. You really see the country side.”

Though the brothers are looking forward to camping along the way, there might be an occasion where they will sleep in a hotel – if the weather is bad or they just want a break from the elements, a hot shower and a soft bed, Buck said.

Wishes generally fall into one of four categories, Miller said. Some children want to be something, like a fireman for a day. Others want to have something, like a new entertainment center and some want to go to Disneyland, Hawaii or the Olympics. Others want to meet someone, like famous celebrities. Make a Wish in Chicago grants about 570 wishes a year that are funded completely by donations.

“By living our dream, there some children out there that will be able to live their dream through Make a Wish foundation who may never get the chance to do it any other way,” Buck said.