For 17-year-old Jacob Karmel, helping people in need is more than just an extra-curricular activity.
"I love being part of Midnight Run," said the rising senior at A student board member and next year's co-president of Hastings-based organization Project S.H.A.R.E., Karmel said helping the homeless is an experience beyond what he'd ever anticipated.
"I thought I'd just be giving out clothes, serving food," he said. "But Midnight Run is really an intense social experience."
Karmel said he knows many of the regular recipients' stories. "I know their names; I know their parents' names," he said. "Taking part in these 'runs' takes me out of what I'm used to and exposes me to something entirely new."
Combining two of his passions, long-distance biking and helping the needy, Karmel has worked with Project S.H.A.R.E. founder Jeanne Newman to create the "S.H.A.R.E. a Bike" program, which will workers with the Yonkers community Center to give out bicycles to youth in Yonkers and the Rivertowns.
To raise money for the bicycles, Karmel will ride cross-country this summer with three other adventurous students from Hastings. So far, his sponsorships page has garnered $930 toward his goal of $2,500.
"When my friends and I began planning the trip, I thought, 'What a great fund-raising opportunity,'" Karmel said. He's confident he'll reach his goal.
On June 21, Karmel, Jeb Polstein, Miles Hirozawa and Matteo Befi will fly to Seattle, where Karmel's uncle lives, and then set out on their 4,000-mile trek back to New York.
"It's funny; outside of our summer trips, we aren't avid riders the rest of the year," Karmel said. He stays in shape playing soccer and baseball and running track.
It's become a tradition for the four friends to take a major bike trip when school ends. When they were younger, they went with groups, Karmel said. "Last year we rode alone from Damariscotta, Maine back to Hastings...as a practice run for the epic cross-country trip.
"The idea of riding cross-country started out as a joke when I was a kid," Karmel said. "Then, as I got older, I realized it could be a reality."
Karmel and his friends mapped the majority of their trip using a website called adventurecycling.org. They also posted questions on bikers' blogs and read various websites about cross-country cycling.
"I'm a little nervous about it," Karmel said. "I don't think the fact that we're really going has hit me yet."
Once the S.H.A.R.E. a Bike program has officially started, Karmel plans to be very much involved with running it and making sure other students keep it going once he's graduated.
"I'm really excited about the program," Karmel said. "I'm hoping our story will reach a lot of people and inspire them to donate because of what we're doing and what a great cause it is."
Project S.H.A.R.E. is a Hastings-based organization founded in 1998 by resident Jeanne Newman. It aims to "involve high school students and youth in community service."
Find Karmel's fund-raising page here to make a donation.
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