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Bike tour raises funds for water
A team of cyclists on a two-week journey in Georgia and two other coastal states to raise funds and awareness for clean water in Africa rolled out of the Golden Isles Tuesday.

The trek, called the Ride:Well Tour, was founded by members of the contemporary Christian music band Jars of Clay. The campaign started in 2008 to raise money for Blood:Water Mission, an organization that works with communities to work on HIV and water problems in Africa.

"The money goes to HIV clinics and fresh water wells and teaches people to actually use and maintain (the well)," said Amber Morey, who is riding the tour for the first time.

In five years, the tour has raised more than $500,000 to fund clean water projects and HIV and AIDS clinics.

This year, six cyclists, ranging in age from 26 to 51, are making their way across the Southeast, starting in north Georgia. They pedaled to Florida then back up to coastal Georgia and will end at Pawley's Island, S.C.

They arrived Monday at First Baptist Church of St. Simons Island, their eighth stop on an 850-mile journey. Tuesday morning they spoke to Vacation Bible School students at the church before heading to Savannah.

Each day, five cyclists ride and one person drives a support van, sporting the Ride:Well logo that includes the continent of Africa.

Team leaders Shannon Jones and Patty Grimm trade off driving every other day, while the other four members cycle every day.

Monday's ride was their longest leg so far, at 91 miles in one day, crossing the Sidney Lanier Bridge and the F.J. Torras Causeway. Reaching St. Simons put them right at 600 miles.

At each stop the group has been hosted by a church or ministry, at which members talk about the Blood:Water Mission and why they are riding.

"Everyone has been really generous. We are spoiled. On the bike, we are pretty uncomfortable, so it's nice to be taken care of," said Jennifer Vasquez, who is riding the tour a second time. "I came back because of the personal transformation that I went through. Our lives are changed through this. It's a great character builder, physically, spiritually and mentally."

SBlt Reporter Megan Smith covers local news. Contact her at or at 265-8320, ext. 350.

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