2009-08-13 / Local & State

Pa. Teacher Goes The Distance For Grieving Kids

By BRIAN BINGAMAN

SOUDERTON, Pa. (AP) - A month after embarking on a oneman, 3,000-mile "Bike Race Across America'' to Seattle, Doug "Dutch'' Moyer was cooling his heels in Hawaii.

"I'm just chilling out. I'm going to check out Pearl Harbor. Did some surfing today,'' said the German teacher from Penndale Middle School in Lansdale, about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia, on the first Tuesday in August.

Setting out from the high school in nearby Souderton where he graduated in 1988, Moyer rode his bicycle to the headquarters of the Moyer Foundation in Seattle in just 28 days, far less than the 50 days he allotted himself.

"We have a family motto: Underpromise, overdeliver,'' he explained.

Doug Moyer, a recently minted endurance athlete, is not related to 2008 World Series champion Jamie Moyer, the left-handed finesse pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies who graduated from the same high school in 1981.

But the German teacher planned the ride to encourage donations to the nonprofit organization founded by the fellow Souderton native and his wife, Karen. The Moyer Foundation has raised $17 million since it was established in 2000 to help children in distress.

"I was so proud to be associated with the Moyer Foundation and the quality programs - outstanding, first-class all the way,'' said Moyer.

During his ride, Moyer visited the organization's Camp Erin network of bereavement camps for children ages 6 to 17, planning stops in five cities including sites in Cleveland and Minnesota.

There are 28 camps in 18 states, including two in the Philadelphia area, and the foundation has set a goal to open at least one camp in every Major League Baseball city by 2010, according to marketing and communications director Sandy Murray.

"It's really amazing that citizens and the community are doing their own grass-roots fundraising,'' Murray said.

The foundation's Web site offered a "direct your donation'' option for the Camp Erin Campaign for Kids in the educator's name.

Jamie Moyer and his wife established Camp Erin when he pitched for the Seattle Mariners, to honor the memory of Erin Metcalf, a Washington state teen who died of liver cancer.

While suffering from cancer, Metcalf became an advocate for other children with cancer and their siblings, according to the Moyer Foundation.

When Doug Moyer was 28, he lost his father to an aneurysm. Throughout his 13-year teaching career, he has known "kids who have lost parents and the struggle they go through.''

"Even well-meaning sympathy cards and well-meaning phrases come up short. I see the value in a program like Camp Erin. It's a great opportunity for kids to know there's hope,'' Moyer said, "and they're not alone.''

"When camp is in session, the goal is to encourage and motivate these kids to realize that they have an opportunity to be successful and they, too, can make a positive difference.''

During his trip, Moyer was fortunate to lose only two days of riding to heavy rain. In Minnesota, Moyer said, there were tornadoes.

"In North Dakota, they brag about the towns being 40 to 50 miles apart. In Montana, they're 100 miles apart,'' Moyer said.

There were no 100-degree days until he started getting close to Seattle.

"I thought,'' before arriving, "Washington state was all about apple trees. Eastern Washington is like Arizona ... bone desert,'' he said.

Visiting the children and staff at the Camp Erin sites "gave me added incentive,'' said Moyer.

"There is so much good out there,'' he said.

Upon reaching Seattle, Moyer said, he was taken on a tour of the Moyer Foundation headquarters, talked with the staff about the foundation's programs and listened to stories about Camp Erin kids.

To see any part of the journey, go to YouTube or Facebook and look up "Doug Dutch Moyer.''

Moyer tracked the comments to his posts throughout the grueling ride and called them "very supportive.''

"I got an e-mail from one of my (Penndale) students. He said: 'I'm so proud of what you're doing and I'm glad you're my German teacher,'' Moyer said.

Moyer shares credit for his accomplishment with what he calls his "Flying Dutchman Race Team'' - partially a reference to his "Dutch'' nickname, inspired by his childhood resemblance to the lad on cans of Dutch Boy paint.

It didn't mean he had a support car following him, or even another cyclist to talk to.

He counts YMCA staffers that helped him train among his "race team.'' Since December, Moyer has put in a daily, threehour regimen of running, weight training and cycling.

Starting out as a marathon runner, Moyer graduated rapidly to "ultra'' marathons.

In January, he says he ran roughly 50 miles from his home in Collegeville to the Rocky statue at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and then back home again, using the Perkiomen and Schuylkill River trail systems.

To minimize travel expenses on his cross-country journey, he also enlisted the hospitality of about three dozen host families through what he called a "Mennoniting Across America'' network, which he said offers fellowship to all denominations, not just Mennonites.

His plan for August includes flying back from Hawaii to Seattle and renting a car to drive back home. He said he will revisit the host families he stayed with and plans to see what he called "the special areas of our country,'' such as Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore.

"One person can make a difference. You don't have to ride a bike for 3,000 miles. It can be reading to your kid or volunteering as a Little League coach,'' he said.

Even before his ride began, Moyer talked about why he's passionate enough about the Moyer Foundation's work that he would spend most of his summer on his bike to support it.

"I think that Souderton is a great place to grow up. I call it 'Hometown America.' In Souderton, we grew up with the work ethic that one person can make a difference,'' he said.

"I felt it was my turn to give something back. I selected the

Moyer Foundation because I'm proud of my hometown of Souderton and proud of the work Jamie Moyer is doing with the Moyer Foundation. I may not be a professional athlete, but I'm proud of my family name,'' he said.

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