CHICAGO — Tommy Schneider described his summer cross-country bike trip as a journey "through 110-degree deserts, a hot and humid Midwest and hills that would just not go away."
"At the end of the long rides, there were nights I felt totally drained," he said.
But the Rogers Park resident still completed his 2,500-mile trek from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., stopping in several cities along the way to teach schoolchildren healthy activities and eating options. The mission fit into Schneider's role as founder of True Fit, a nonprofit that shows kids throughout the Chicago area accessible forms of health and fitness.
"Going cross-country and stopping at almost every nook and cranny along the way was a rush of diversity and new insights into the perspectives of others," said Schneider, who's also an assistant basketball coach at North Lawndale College Prep.
Schneider's trip from L.A. to D.C. began in early July and concluded Thursday in front of the White House. His brother, James, drove alongside in a recreational vehicle so Schneider didn't have to spend money on a hotel room, while his dad, Tom, biked about 1,800 of the trip's miles.
His cross-country path took him into Chicago, where he provided training and health tips to youngsters at Breakthrough Urban Ministries in East Garfield Park on July 25. He also visited Boys and Girls Clubs in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Kansas City, in addition to smaller venues in small towns like Plymouth, Ind., and Flagstaff, Ariz.
He also said the trip provided him with stories that would last "for years." He lost his wallet at a diner in Denver, but the people there found it and mailed it back to his Rogers Park apartment with all the cash still inside. While in Las Vegas, his brother went missing for hours in a scene reminiscent of "The Hangover."
Schneider and his dad thought James was missing or dead, and they called hospitals and police departments all over the city. It turned out James had went for a long, early morning walk, and his phone died.
Schneider said his cross-country trip wasn't meant to inspire the country's children to complete a similar task. Instead, he wanted to teach healthy lifestyle pointers to as many folks as possible.
"It's more of a point to show that I care about the importance for people to live a healthy lifestyle," he said. "I want to work with Forrest Claypool or whomever we need to in CPS to equip our youth with a better understanding on how to live a healthy lifestyle in the long term. I'll work with whoever in order to get this accomplished because this is an effort that needs to be done collectively, not just with one person, or one organization."
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