Nearly four decades ago, Gary Christopher ’81 and Phil Good ’79 hopped on their bikes bound for Oregon and the adventure of a lifetime with fellow Elizabethtown College soccer teammates Stan Tyson ’80 and Dan Kilby ’81.
Christopher approached Good with the idea of replicating their 4,000-mile cross-country pilgrimage shortly after Good’s beloved wife of more than 34 years, Belinda (Kline) Good ’80, passed away from valvular heart disease on Feb. 27, 2016.
Fast forward to May 22, 2017, when the two friends stood side by side in the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon. Bikes in tow, they were ready to navigate the Rocky Mountains, traverse the plains and needle through the Appalachians heading east for Avalon, New Jersey.
Much has changed since their first ride 37 years ago, but the breathtaking beauty that is the landscape of the United States of America remains. Christopher and Good were in awe of their surroundings just as they were in 1980 but, this time, both men rode with a greater purpose.
Christopher, who has made his living in the health and wellness industry and currently is president of the Athletic Performance Academy in West Chester, Pennsylvania, is a longtime supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and works closely with the Philadelphia, Northern Delaware & Susquehanna Valley chapter.
Last summer, on his 60th birthday, Christopher dribbled a soccer ball 60,000 steps to and from his home in Downingtown to Villa Maria Academy in Malvern, where he is the soccer coach, to raise funds for Make-A-Wish. He raised more than $12,000 during this year’s Wish Across America bike tour.
“Each place we visited had its own magic.”
“My involvement with Make-A-Wish actually started 12 years ago when the Villa Maria Academy soccer team, and I decided to give back to our community. We brought a young girl out to our one-day event, and to see the smile and joy on her face was something I’ll never forget,” the alumnus said.
Christopher’s love for sports and youth athletics has naturally evolved into sports-themed Make-A-Wish fundraisers.“Granting a wish for a Make-A-Wish kid has the potential to positively alter their life, but it also has a huge effect on the family. After my first experience with Make-A-Wish, I was hooked on trying to help grant other children their wishes.”
Good, decked out in self-designed, brightly colored T-shirts, honored his wife’s memory with “Belinda’s Ride for a Good Life.”
“There were nine T-shirts, in all, each with a different theme,” noted Good. “All of the themes spoke to Belinda’s efforts to live a good life.” Good penned the organization’s mantra “Live a Belinda Like Life,” with words like inspirational, educator, love, devoted, infectious and faithful, all of which described the type of woman Belinda was.
Elizabethtown College served as the meeting place for the couple, and Good has dedicated himself to keeping Belinda’s life of service at the forefront of everything he does. Along with the College, he has established the Belinda Good Scholarship.
Friends and family members have supported Christopher’s and Good’s journey and causes from afar, but Sean Crossland wanted to do more. The son of Jay, a 1980 Elizabethtown grad, assisted on their three-month trek, every step of the way.
Crossland manned the support vehicle and mapped out the trip and nightly accommodations, while providing daily updates through photos, videos and social media. He is working on a Drone-Across-America video that will chronicle the trip from start to finish.
Along the way, there were memorable sights and hospitable people, eager to listen as Christopher and Good shared their stories.
“We struck up a conversation about our trip in Monroe City, Missouri, and a woman we talked to ran the local newspaper,” said Christopher. “She introduced us to her father, a licensed pilot, and he ended up giving the three of us 20-minute rides over the town.”
“It was an awesome experience,” added Good. “You could see Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home & Museum (in Hannibal, Missouri) from the plane, and it provided us a view we never expected to get.”
In Woodson, Illinois, the trio looked to settle down for the night in a park, but they needed the permission of the mayor to be there after hours. After learning about their trip, Mayor Rhonda Cors put them up at her rug shop, downtown.
“Each place we visited had its own magic,” said Good. “Sometimes when you’re traveling by car, you only get a glimpse of your surroundings and the history you’re passing. On a bike, you’re really able to soak those things in and enjoy the experience.”
The adventure concluded on July 28—Gary’s 61st birthday—in Avalon with a dip in the Atlantic Ocean (bikes included) bookending the trip. Some of their closest friends joined for the final leg, including Kilby and Tyson, the original foursome reunited.
A Good Life—and a great ride—celebrated.