For the second year in a row, Jack Van Houten, 16, will be biking from Minnesota to New Jersey helping to raise awareness and money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, in honor of his younger brother Kyle, 13.
The Hartland teen rode the same 1,500 mile trek last summer raising more than $10,000 for the Jett Foundation, and this year, according to his parents, he has raised roughly $7,000. This year, Jack is joined by his cousin Megan, who also decided to ride and raise money for her young cousin. Each rider is required to raise a minimum of $4,000 for the event.
Keith and Julie Van Houten hosted the group of 15 young riders Jack is travelling with earlier this week. The family opened up their home as a pit stop, sharing every available sleeping space and pool, and giving the group a much needed break from the heat.
Many of the cyclists Jack is riding with have someone in their lives affected by the disease, so whenever there is an opportunity, the bikers enjoy meeting the families of their fellow riders, Keith Van Houten said.
“Kyle feels like a prince,” Julie said. “Two of the girls were playing LEGOS with him last night. One of the girls followed him back to his room and she listened to all his stories, because he loves baseball."
The group of teenagers continued on their journey early Tuesday morning, biking to Temperance, Ohio, a total of 60 miles in one day.
Julie said the ride is very well organized with pit stops designated along the way that can include campgrounds and churches.
“They try and work it out that they’ll have some place where they can shower,” Keith said. “If they have to, they will camp, but they really try not to stay at hotels since that kind of ruins the atmosphere.”
Julie said the kids enjoy the challenge and the rough elements the trip provides.
“Jack has taken showers out in a parking lot with a hose,” she said. “It’s neat-- he’s getting to experience these things.”
The journey for the Jett Foundation riders will end in Point Pleasant, N.J. in August. Jack’s parents and brother already have plans to be there watching and cheering as the bikers complete their ride with a traditional dipping of the tires in the ocean at the finish line.