Pedaling pays off—high school cyclists ride 300 miles to benefit the Navajo NationFeb 22, 2022 09:27PM ● By Deb Hafner
Abby Lowry and friends cross the Glen Canyon Dam bridge on the last day of their 300-mile ride. (Photo credit Ben Lowry)
By Deb Hafner | [email protected]
On Oct. 27, 2021, Millcreek resident Abby Lowry, her brother Isaac Lowry, and friends Laneia Webb, and Max Dunlop set off on a 300-mile bike ride from Bluffdale, Utah, to the Arizona border of the Navajo Nation.
The bike ride is part of an ongoing fundraising effort to purchase and distribute supplies to the elderly and at-risk people living in isolated areas on the Navajo Nation.
For Fientje Allis, raising money for supplies and getting them to elders on the Navajo Nation has been her work since 1998. The bike ride component was added two years ago by Lowry’s friend, Taylor Wall, as a way the young cyclists could herald Allis’s efforts.
“I don’t think people are fully aware of the conditions the Navajo people are facing. The living conditions are a lot different than in Salt Lake even though it’s so close,” said Lowry.
According to Lowry, in the overall scope of raising money, the bike ride is “a way to demonstrate that we are serious about a cause that is greater than ourselves.”
This was Lowry’s second time on the 300-mile ride and her first time organizing and leading it. “It was definitely harder with the added pressure of taking charge of it,” she said, but she is grateful to have had the experience.
The group carried their camping equipment strapped to their bikes and on the first day rode from Bluffdale to Yuba Lake. Day two ended at Otter Creek State Park, and on the third day the cyclists rode to Kodachrome Basin State Park where they were joined by other cyclists and friends.
The last day of the ride was 65 miles on and off dirt roads through the scenic vistas of Cottonwood Narrows, into Arizona, and across the Colorado River on the Glen Canyon Dam bridge.
“Crossing the bridge was symbolic of our long journey because for the Navajo people, the bridge is sacred in a sense of coming home and being united as a people,” said Lowry.
Allis was waiting on the other side of the bridge to congratulate and thank the cyclists. “Young people are the future for ongoing efforts to support those who need assistance and also promote cultural understanding,” Allis said.
As the liaison between the teen cyclists and the Navajo people, Allis said the Dine (Navajo) elders are deeply moved by the teenagers’ long journey and fundraising. She said they would love to meet Lowry and her friends to thank them in person one day, when Covid restrictions are eased on the Nation.
Lowry’s efforts raised over $9,000, which went directly to purchase supplies that were then packed into boxes, each containing about $50 in nonperishable items. The first shopping trip yielded enough to fill a convoy of 10 pickup trucks with boxes of supplies, which were delivered to the Navajo Nation before Thanksgiving 2021.
There was enough money in the coffers to do a second shopping trip, and this time Lowry and the volunteers she helped organize filled seven pickup trucks and made a delivery a few days before Christmas 2021.
One week after that delivery, the Navajo Nation was impassable, due to snow and ice, and no one could get in or out for several weeks, highlighting the importance of the supply boxes.
There is still enough left in the coffers to do a third supply drop, which is planned for March 6, and after that Allis is coordinating one in May.
Lowry is graduating from Skyline High School this year and passing the torch to her brother, Isaac, to organize and lead the 300-mile ride, coordinate the supply shopping, and organize the box packing and delivery.
Allis and other volunteers are working to form a nonprofit this year to sustain the humanitarian efforts, and pedaling, for years to come. Their GoFundMe can be found at: www.gofundme.com/f/navajo-nation-food-drive-2021.