Harlan Noonkester, son Evan and family friend Mike Garcia, will set out on Sunday for a six day, 630-mile bicycle trek, climbing 40,000 feet as part of team "Cast A Shadow" to raise money for a water filtration system in Ghana.
Harlan, 44, a Nipinnawasee resident, began cycling with the SoCal based team in 2008. Every year they ride for a different charity, usually close to home, but this year they are raising funds for Cornerstone Charities International.
The organization was founded by Lamon and Margrett Bishop. While working in Ghana, Lamon suffered a heart attack and died in his wife's arms. Margrett was determined to continue the work they started together.
The Bishop's organization has built a school and medical clinics and is now working to provide a water and filtration system for the village of Buranaman in Ghana. Villagers now are forced to walk to a dirty well three to four miles away from their village. Clean water would help the villagers' health as diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in young children.
"Her (Margrett) ministry and her story is really an amazing ... (and) her perseverance -- that she went on with her ministry even after this tragedy," Harlan said. "It's a sign that God is working in her life. And it's the same with the rides. Everyone's going to suffer and you have to have perseverance. It's an opportunity for God to be at work."
This year every rider with Cast A Shadow is determined to raise $1,000 a piece for this charity -- with a goal of $15,000 combined -- for the $20,000 water system. The team consists of all ages -- from 15-year-old Evan to those in their 60s. Last year there were three generations participating. Cyclists also come from all skill levels, from beginners to championship riders.
Harlan said the Cast A Shadow group brings together a group of guys with a passion for cycling and a common goal -- helping out someone else. Harlan says he likes the adventure of the event and this year is even more special because he gets to ride alongside 15-year-old his son.
"This year I finally got motivated enough and old enough to actually make it," Evan said. "I'm a little nervous, but I think it will be fine. There's a lot more motivation when you get with other people."
The father and son duo have been training for a year for the event. The race will begin in Weed, then head north to Oregon, Crater Lake, over to the Oregon coast and then back into California, finishing at Mt. Shasta.
"The first time I went I had no idea what I was getting into," said Harlan, whose first ride with the team was in Utah. "Each day I rode was the furthest I'd ever ridden. I didn't think I was going to be able to make it, but thankfully I did. You feel like you're done and can't go anymore, but you really can and that's what's unique about it to me. You can always go a lot further than you think. You get a lot of energy and support from the team."
Garcia, 38, a Bass Lake resident, has been part of the team for three years. Already a cyclist, he said participating as part of Cast a Shadow gave him a purpose for his hobby and a reason to serve.
"Being a Christian, it gave me a way to raise money and a way to provide," Garcia said.
Harlan and Garcia hope to start a similar cycling team in the Mountain Area for parents to connect with their children. Garcia said they want to share Christ with people and serve others while parents and their children ride together, building relationships.
"I know I connect a lot better with my kids riding tandem than playing Barbie with my daughters," Garcia laughed. "We think there's a big gap in people with their families. It gives them a way to connect with and mentor their kids."
Garcia plans on taking his own son with him on the next ride with Cast A Shadow and they will ride tandem.
Anyone interested in being a part of a Mountain Area cycling team can contact Harlan at (559) 760-5141 or Garcia at (559) 760-5848.
For information on Cast A Shadow's event or to donate to their cause, visit castashadow.org.