Did you know that 30% of Climate Ride participants are 30 years old and under? This generation’s leaders for climate and sustainability are taking life by the handlebars and pedaling hard for the cause. In philanthropy, young people are often overlooked as fundraisers and leaders of movements. Well, no longer. Here are a few profiles of young leaders who are riding with us this fall on Climate Ride Bar Harbor to Boston, demonstrating that acting on climate and protecting our planet for future generations is not a cause de jour, but the most important issue facing us right now.

Sean Garren, 30, of Cambridge, Massachusetts

On September 17, Sean Garren of Cambridge, will embark on the next leg of what he refers to as one of the longest rides of his life. No, he is not talking about the inaugural Climate Ride Northeast – Bar Harbor to Boston this September 17-21. Rather, he is talking about the road to combat global warming, a journey he started back in college. 

Sean Garren, left, at Surprise Glacier, Prince William Sound

As a student living in New York City, Garren got his start canvassing for the environment. Over time, he moved to Washington, D.C, and to designing and implementing federal renewable energy and energy efficiency policy campaigns. When he recently returned to Massachusetts, his home state where he first developed a love for the outdoors, he was hired as the Northeast Regional Manager for Vote Solar where he helps to make solar energy more affordable and accessible to communities in New England. Prior to joining Vote Solar he was the Legislative Director at Fair Share, an economic justice non-profit, and Clean Energy Advocate at Environment America, an environmental group. He majored in Government at Dartmouth College.

Vote Solar, one of Climate Ride’s 2015 beneficiaries, works at the state and local levels to implement programs and policies that help to make solar energy more mainstream. Not only is Vote Solar a recipient of funds raised by Climate Riders, but the nonprofit spins its own wheels for the cause. For the last two years, team Vote Solar has participated in Climate Rides, like the California North Coast Ride, taking Vote Solar staff members, friends and supporters down the coast of California to raise money and awareness for the organization. 

This September, Garren will lead new recruits, Vote Solar staff members, friends and supporters, in the first Northeast event. “There is so much personal fundraising that goes on in this country for health and human service related causes, such as cancer, hunger and homelessness, and yet there is little fundraising done to better the environment, despite that global warming is our single largest threat,” says Garren. 

“Climate Ride has found an incredible niche in creating these large scale travel adventure events, accessing and educating a large amount of people to raise awareness for environmental issues while financially helping and mobilizing more than 100 organizations to take action.” As a first-time Climate Rider and team captain, Garren has committed to ride his bicycle four to five miles to and from work each day and longer on the weekends leading up to the event to train. As Vote Solar’s Northeast team captain, he also plans to organize formal group training events this summer. His goal is to raise $15,000 as a team.

 

Virginia Aprahamian, 26, of Somerville, Massachusetts

Less than two years ago, Virginia Aprahamian of Somerville learned how to ride a bicycle for the first time in the parking lot of a local high school where teens were simultaneously learning how to drive! 

Growing up in New York City where public transportation was abundant, she never felt compelled to learn how to ride. Once she hopped on the saddle for the first time, she instantly fell in love with cycling and began commuting on her hybrid bicycle as much as possible. Aprahamian’s motivation to ride and raise money is twofold. “When I first signed up to participate in Climate Ride, it was about cycling and my desire to support organizations that promote cycling,’ says Aprahamian. “However, my girlfriend, Nora, has been a vocal advocate for policies to curb climate change and improve our infrastructure so that we rely on cars less. As I have become more aware of the policies that shape, make and break the world around us, I’ve found myself feeling more frustrated about how slow necessary change is to happen.”

Aprahamian will pedal alongside Nora Drago, who is captain of Team 350.org, as a member of Team Awesome for Allison, a team formed in her late friend’s honor. Allison Smith, who was often referred to as a climate crusader, was a four-time Climate Rider who planned to ride in the first Climate Ride Northeast- Bar Harbor to Boston. Tragically, Smith was killed in a car accident just a few months ago. Nine of her dearest friends and family members will pedal along in her place.  “Unfortunate circumstances gave me extra fuel to participate in Climate Ride,” says Aprahamian. “I’m doing this ride because there’s a lot to be angry or sad about in this world, but nothing makes you feel more empowered, alive and grateful for the world around you like pushing on your pedals so fast and supporting incredible organizations.” Collectively, members of Team Awesome for Allison hope to raise $10,000 in Climate Ride Bar Harbor to Boston.

 

Laura DeBenedetto, 26, of Somerville, Massachusetts

Laura DeBenedetto commutes by bicycle every day from her home in Somerville to her office in Boston, even during this past winter’s record breaking snow storms. After spending years navigating the busy city streets in inclement weather, DeBenedetto is committed to bike advocacy and works to make the city’s streets safe for cyclists.  One way she does this is by participating in Climate Ride events. 

In September, she will participate in the inaugural Climate Ride Northeast-Bar Harbor to Boston, cruising 320 miles down the scenic coast of New England.  “What I love most about Climate Ride is that it’s five days where your only job is to get to point B. You get to travel incredible these backroads that you probably would not see in a car,” says DeBenedetto. 

DeBenedetto will be among 150 participants who will ride to raise $400,000 to support more than 100 regional and national nonprofits. A Climate Ride veteran, DeBenedetto has participated in two past events as a member of the Boston Cyclist Union team. DeBenedetto was hooked after completing her first long distance cycling event, the 2013 Climate Ride NYC to DC. She returned to the NYC to DC event the following year and is excited to try her hand at a new route that travels through some of her favorite parts of New England. 

This year, she will ride to raise money for two organizations: the Boston Cyclist Union, which brings together cyclists in the Boston area and advocates for better bicycle infrastructure and policy, and Bikes Not Bombs, a non-profit that refurbishes bicycles and re-sells them at a discounted rate. Bikes Not Bombs’ mission is to use bicycles as a vehicle for social change by promoting sustainable transportation. By hosting fun events such as pancake breakfasts and beer Friday, DeBenedetto hopes to raise $2,800 for her designated beneficiaries. 

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