Parks Pace, second from left, is cycling to New York City from Daytona Beach, Fla., with the She’s My Sister Bike Tour, raising money and awareness for women and children of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
ALBANY -- What do you do when you graduate high school? Why, you ride your bicycle nearly 2,000 miles, of course.
That's what 18-year-old Parks Pace is doing right now. As of Friday evening, he and a group of six other cyclists were taking a break after completing the first leg of their mission to raise money and awareness for women suffering rape and violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"Not too bad," is how Pace described the initial, 46-mile Florida ride from Daytona Beach to St. Augustine. During the brief telephone interview, he admitted he probably should have started in "better shape."
To participate in the She's My Sister Tour and pedal the 1,934 miles from Florida to New York City, Pace had to come up with $5,250. The American Bible Society, sponsor of the second annual event, provided the letterhead and guideline letter with which Parks solicited donations from his family and friends.
Pace said the problem he and his biking group are trying to address is the so-called Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA, lead by Joseph Kony, who uses rape in the Congo "as a weapon" of intimidation and violence. According to an article in The Huffington Post Friday, the LRA is known to abduct children and use women as sex slaves. The group has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and has been classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.
Money solicited from appearances at churches and Christian organizations along the route will go toward educating, feeding and protecting women and children, specifically in four sites -- Banda, Bangadi, Doruma and Duru. A $10 donation will protect a woman for a year, Pace said.
Pace heard about the bike tour from a friend last year, but because he was still in high school he stayed home. He was affected by what he learned about the situation and prayed about it, he said. Later, when he discussed the tour with his parents, Jim and Kay Pace of Albany, his dad was hesitant at first.
"We were surprised, mostly because he wanted to help someone so far away." Jim Pace said, "There are so many American causes, and to be honest we didn't really know these people. It was a real leap of faith."
After more discussion and some investigation, the Paces were satisfied their youngest son had made a good decision.
"We're really proud of him," Jim Pace said, "He was a leader at Deerfield High, co-captain of his football team and co-president of his class, as well."
Parks Pace was sure about what he'd do, almost from the first, explaining that the Bible "doesn't say to put the people in your country first."
"I decided on this because it was just something that came to me," Parks Pace said. "I didn't really find this cause. It found me."
The young cyclist and his group will arrive in Albany Wednesday as a part of their planned route to New York and will be hosted for supper by First United Methodist Church, Jim Pace said.