Wylie Mao of Lake Forest Park will only be a junior at Shorecrest High School this school year, but he’s already accomplished a huge personal goal—and helped make a difference in the world.
Mao, 16, took about six weeks to bicycle across the U.S. earlier this summer logging 40 to 120 miles a day, often in the heat, for charity and to prove to himself he could do a serious, cross-country ride. He left June 21 from Georgia and arrived in Southern California on Friday, Aug. 3.
Mao chose to raise money for One Day’s Wages, a Seattle-based non-profit, that encourages the donation of one day’s wage to fight global poverty.
For that effort, Mao has been named Greatest Person of the Day by the Huffington Post.
The money raised by Mao for the ride will provide funding for a water project in a developing country. Where and when that happens is up to One Day’s Wages. The clean water generated will enable people to spend more time with their families instead of searching for miles for a clean water source, Mao said. He raised $8,000 from family, friends and others through the non-profit’s Web site, in-person requests and social media.
“People who didn’t know me personally, but liked my story decided to donate,” he said. “People along (the ride) donated.”
All 13 riders on the trip were biking for a cause, ranging from helping wounded veterans to providing bicycles for people in developing nations.
Mao, who bikes to school several miles a day, said he had interested in doing long ride for awhile, something more than a day ride around Lake Washington.
“I wanted to do something of that caliber,” he said. “The first ride I wanted to do with an organization because I lacked experience and needed help with repairs.”
The ride started on a beach on Tybee Island in Savannah, Georgia and encompassed about 3,000 miles ending on the California Coast at Santa Monica. The ride took Mao from Georgia, to Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona before arriving in California. The route went through Oklahoma and New Mexico for about a mile each.
He rode a touring bike designed for long trips and brought along a much needed patch kit—he had 20 flats the entire trip and went through five tires.
“I finished at the Santa Monica pier and dove in the ocean,” he said. “It was definitely one of the most memorable moments of my life.”
He admits his parents were skeptical about the whole thing and so was he, but in the end, “I did something that so many people thought I couldn’t do.”
Mao hopes to conquer Central Asia or South America on his bike in the future.
“There’s nothing that qualified me to do this, just determination and time,” he said. “I made as much a difference as I could. I made a dent in issues that I’m passionate about.”
Mao is still keeping his money raising campaign open until his birthday, Sept. 2. If you would like to donate go to the One Day’s Wages Web site: http://www.onedayswages.org/donate/org/pedal-across-america-clean-water