For 17-Year-old Belgrade resident, the Trek Across Maine is About Helping Others

Kenya Whitehead looking for sponsors to help her raise funds for the ride

On Father’s Day weekend, the American Lung Association of the Northeast will celebrate the 29th annual Trek Across Maine, with more than 2,000 cyclists taking off from Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry and finishing up at Steamboat Landing Park in Belfast. The event is the largest fundraiser for the nonprofit organization nationwide, raising $1.8 million in 2012, with a goal of $2 million for 2013.

Kenya Whitehead photo
Kenya Whitehead is pictured in the front of the canoe.

Riding for the first time this year will be 17-year-old Kenya Whitehead who lives in Belgrade on Winterberry Farm with her mother, Mary Perry, and her two siblings, Gil and Sage. Kenya, who is home-schooled, has been away for a semester program with Kroka Expeditions, an organization “committed to awakening in young people a connection to nature and the spirit within and a capacity for conscious living and compassionate service.” For the last five months Kenya has lived with her teachers and fellow students as they traveled on a 600-mile journey through the wilderness using equipment made with their own hands. As soon as Kenya returns home, she’ll be off on another journey – the three-day Trek Across Maine.

While many teens Kenya’s age might be hesitant to choose a course of study that involves being completely disconnected from the Internet and the outside world for such a long period of time, Kenya doesn’t consider it a sacrifice. Perry explains that her daughter, Kenya, is not your typical teen and prefers hands-on activities that promote health and wellness and involve helping others.  Her mother is quick to point out that Kenya doesn’t even own a cell phone; she says when she spoke with her daughter recently it was the first time she had talked with her in over four months

“I have never met any teen as selfless as Kenya,” says Perry.  “I run a farm and Kenya does everything she can to help me.  To go on her expedition with Kroka, she raised all the money she needed for the trip ($14,000) herself by holding fundraisers and growing vegetables and fruit and then preserving them via a solar dehydrator she built herself.  She then setup booths at the Common Grounds Fair and other places and sold her goods. She’s a resourceful person and knows how to take care of herself.”

With Kenya away on her expedition, however, raising money for the Trek Across Maine has been a challenge. She needs to raise $500 before event day. Her mother’s hoping members of the community will read Kenya’s story and be motivated to support her, and the American Lung Association, with a donation. 

Asked how Kenya learned of the Trek, Perry explained that one of Kenya’s passions is the cello and she attends the Maine Fiddle Camp each summer in Liberty.  At camp, she met Jessie Schneider who had ridden the Trek for several years and encouraged Kenya to ride along with him and his dad at this year’s event.  When Kenya heard the money raised would be to help people who are fighting lung disease, she wanted to become involved. Even though Kenya, a competitive swimmer, needs back surgery this summer, she arranged it so that her surgery would happen after the Trek was over.  She’ll leave for Boston to have the surgery on Monday, immediately following the Trek.

“Basically my daughter will get home from her six-month adventure with Kroka and will leave almost immediately for the Trek Across Maine,” explains Perry.  “I’ll be coming up to the Trek after each day’s ride to stay with my daughter in a tent. Right after the Trek is over, she and I will head to Boston and she’ll have her surgery done.”

On Friday, June 14, more than 2,000 will leave from Sunday River Ski Resort and make the 180-mile Trek to Belfast. Cyclists come from all over the country to be a part of the weekend. All proceeds benefit the American Lung Association and help fund valuable research, education and advocacy.

To make a donation to support Kenya’s ride in the Trek Across Maine visit her personal page. To learn more about the Trek Across Maine and to register for the 30th Anniversary Ride coming up on Father Day’s weekend in 2014, visit Biketreknewengland.org More about the Lung Association’s other bike treks in Cape Cod and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is also available on the site.