Firefighter riding 6,600 miles to grant wishes

  • Friday, August 8, 2014

Chris Sokoloski/South Strand News Chris Harley Rupp is riding 6,600 miles to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Chris Harley Rupp, a firefighter and school teacher from Wisconsin, bicycled through Georgetown this week on his way to Miami, Fla.

Rupp, 26, is riding 6,600 miles to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. All the money he raises during the ride is donated to local chapters of the foundation and will be used for granting wishes.

For every donation made, the zip code of the person donating, will determine which local chapter the donation benefits.

Rupp chose the charity after a young girl in his hometown was granted a wish to swim with dolphins at Disneyland.

“It amazed me that just a couple of weeks before she died they were laughing and having fun and making memories,” Rupp said.

“And that was what Make-A-Wish provided them. They gave them the opportunity, in that situation, to really enjoy the time they had left, which is an incredible thing to be able to give someone.”

Rupp started out in Seattle on May 28 and has been averaging about 95 miles a day. When he passed though Georgetown he had about 1,000 miles to go.

It took him about one hour with Google maps on his computer to come up with his route. He figured 1 inch on the map equaled about 50 miles, so he planned on one and a half inches per day.

“There was no massive rhyme or reason,” Rupp said. “It was just an inch-and-a-half on my map.”

Although Rupp is traveling alone, as a firefighter he knows he can always find help or a place to stop at a local station. So far he’s visited more than 70 fire stations along the way.

About half the time he listens to music; the rest of the times he sightsees.

“You just look around,” Rupp said. “You just enjoy it. A lot of places that I’m going to I’ve never been to before and I’ll probably never be to them again.”

His favorite places so far have been Highway 126 along the Oregon coast, the redwoods in California and the state of West Virginia.

“That was very pretty,” Rupp said.

The worst parts were the first week, the stretch from Las Vegas to Farmington, N.M., and in Arizona, where it was 110 degrees.

“That was pretty terrible,” he said.

Rupp is buoyed by the approximately 200 text and Facebook messages and emails he gets every day.

“The majority of the people I’ve never met and never will meet,” he said. “It’s cool because you’re constantly getting those messages. It’s awesome.”

He especially enjoys the videos from his preschool students back in Wisconsin, and sends back videos from the road.

This is not Rupp’s first long-distance charity ride.

In 2011 he rode 3,000 from San Francisco, Calif., to New York City and raised about $100,000 for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

He learned a lot from that ride that gave him confidence for this ride.

“It’s all mental,” he said. “Once you understand that, it makes it easy. You don’t really worry about what’s going to happen at mile 110, you just worry about what’s going to happen in the next push of the pedal.”

You can follow Rupp’s progress on Facebook at “Coast to Coast for Make a Wish.” Donations can be made at www.rideforwishes.us.

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