The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 25, 2012

Former Joplin residents raising money to rebuild hometown

Cycle for Joplin campaign one of many Joplin Expats' fundraisers

By Kelsey Ryan
news@joplinglobe.com

— For more than 10 years, Todd Greene made his home in New York City.

Now Greene, Joplin Expats president and co-founder, and his cycling partner, Dave duCille, plan to ride more than 1,500 miles in 20 days to help raise money to provide storm shelters for Joplin families. They will leave from New York City’s Central Park on Sunday and end their journey at Cunningham Park in Joplin.

“Cycling is so fun to me,” Greene said. “It’s an amazing way to explore. If you’re walking, you can’t cover as much ground. If you’re driving, it’s too fast to soak in surroundings.”

Their Cycle for Joplin campaign is one of many fundraisers the Joplin Expats have held since the May 22 tornado.

The group, which is composed of hundreds of former Joplinites who now live around the United States as well as overseas, works to raise funds and awareness for Joplin’s recovery.

“We may not live in Joplin, but it lives within us” is one of the slogans on the group’s website, joplinexpats.org.

Expats in New York City held a fundraiser last year for Joplin schools. The Washington, D.C., chapter held a raffle and silent auction for the Boys & Girls Club in Joplin. It was attended by U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo. The Chicago Expats had a fundraising mixer last fall.

Andrea Hicklin, a Joplin Expats co-founder who lives in Washington, D.C., and works as a physical therapist, said she and Greene started talking about forming the group within a day after the storm.

Hicklin said that at the end of last summer, the group had raised more than $25,000 from cities across the country to help charities with rebuilding. Long-term goals have shifted to supporting local students through an alumni network for career mentoring in addition to aiding the economic recovery.

“We all just wanted to be able to do something,” Hicklin said. “We couldn’t be there and we couldn’t help someone directly at the time, so we felt the best thing was to aggregate our resources. ... It has been a journey that has brought me back to old friends, acquaintances from when I lived there, and it has renewed an interest in Joplin.”



‘Tipping Point’

Originally, Greene was going to cycle to Joplin for his move back to the area, but that became a logistical nightmare, he said. He and duCille came up with the idea to do the trip around the first anniversary of the storm. He said members of Joplin Expats all have different reasons for leaving the community, but they still think about their hometown.



View Cycle for Joplin in a larger map

“They all have love-hate relationships with the town they leave,” Greene said. “They leave for a reason — more opportunities, more diversity and more things to do.”

For Greene, the storm was an impetus to come home; he and his wife moved back to Joplin in November.

“It does make you think,” Greene said. “The fact that you miss your family is magnified. ... The storm was the tipping point that made it sink in that we should come back.”

Greene said the challenge for the ride will be a combination of mental and physical strain. He has done triathlons in the past and said he hopes that duCille, who works as a personal trainer, will help him keep a good pace. He called duCille a “bicycling mad scientist.”

He knows there will be some logistical challenges along the way, such as riding through Tornado Alley during storm season, but he’s up for it. He said they will be chronicling their experience on the road on the website and through social media.

“The weather is a huge factor,” he said. “We might need to stop shorter or ride longer each day. A lot of people are worried about our safety because it’s a little crazy.”

The end goal for the Joplin Expats and the cyclists is to raise $50,000 for as many storm shelters as possible. Greene, who works as an Internet and marketing consultant, said the group is working on an application procedure for Joplinites who are interested in receiving a storm shelter. He said priority likely will be given to families with children.

“The only real reason we’re doing this is to help Joplin families,” Greene said. “This is something tangible, and it’s something where people not being from the area don’t necessarily realize the fear that’s in families, and especially children’s eyes, every time a storm comes around.”

Greene said donations and sponsorships may be given on the group’s website, www.cycleforjoplin.com.





Stops along with way



THE CYCLING DUO will make nine official stops during the 20-day trek. The men plan to start in New York City before stops in Conshohocken, Pa.; Washington, D.C.; Fredericksburg, Va.; Richmond, Va.; Christiansburg, Va.; Damascus, Va.; Berea, Ky.; Cape Girardeau; and Golden City before ending in Joplin.