Justin Mauser maintains a blog about his preparations for a cross-country bicycle ride. To learn more or to make a donation, visit Wish Across the Country.
Justin Mauser has a sturdy bike, months of physical training behind him, and the start of nearly $1,000 worth of food for two months along with a one-way ticket in August on a plane bound for Maine.
Mauser, who earned his University of Arizona undergraduate degree in biochemistry in May, intends to pedal from Bar Harbor, Maine to Tucson, Ariz. – a physically and mentally strenuous ride he is making in the name of charity.
Mauser describes this as one of his greatest longstanding dreams. What remains in the way of him being able to donate to his organization of choice, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona, is nearly 2,500 miles and the would-be $3,000 donation.
"I wanted to couple something I really wanted to do with being able to benefit others," said Mauser, who decided during his final spring semester at UA that he would commit to a cross-country ride while raising funds for the nonprofit.
Raisanen, who is nearing Bar Harbor to mark the completion of his ride, and UA systems engineering major and Honors College student Cedric Bosch, who introduced Mauser to cycling, serve as inspiration for the trip, Mauser said.
Mauser, who has been applying for medical school at the UA and elsewhere while running, swimming and biking to get prepared, aspires to one day be a pediatrician.
"The idea of helping kids who have life-threatening diseases is a great ambition of mine," said Mauser, who also has been shadowing UA affiliate and pediatrician Eve Shapiro this summer.
Mauser said helping children is an ambition that he shares with Shapiro and the foundation.
"The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona always appreciates when community members help us raise much-needed funds to ensure that all eligible wish kids receive their wishes in a timely manner," said Bethany Taylor, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona's philanthropy director.
"Justin is clearly passionate about helping Arizona's children with life-threatening medical conditions, and it is our pleasure to work with him on his fundraising efforts," Taylor also said.
Rachel Martinez, who met Mauser, a fellow Honors College student, moving into her UA residence hall during her freshman year, said she has long been impressed by his compassion for and support of others.
A resident assistant like Mauser, Martinez said he was prone to supporting others, whether that meant taking the night shift last minute or helping students move in, as he did for her.
"It's never been about Justin. It's always been about how Justin can help others," said Martinez, a UA Honors College student studying molecular and cellular biology and also Latin American studies.
"If you take one look at Justin, you wouldn't think he's as kind as he is," Martinez said. "He is honestly and incredibly sweet person."
That reputation has followed him.
"He's a very no nonsense type of person and very well adjusted," said Tsao, an assistant professor in the chemistry and biochemistry department. "He's very much the type of person who gets things done because it needs to get done."
When Mauser went to Tsao a few months ago, he told him about the ride and asked his advice on a route.
"It was a bit surprising, but not surprising that he would do it," Tsao said. "I wouldn't say that it is out of character that he wants to do this."
But why cycling?
The way Mauser sees it – sure, he could go for a hike instead and ask around for donations. But, to him, this is not a mere exercise – either in charity or physical exertion. He wants the visceral connection to both the earth and to his cause.
"It's active and fit and there is a certain level of intimacy you have with the environment and country," Mauser said. "The danger is part of the thrill."
During the trip, Mauser will carry a trailer with camping gear – a tent, lightweight stove and minimal amounts of food and water – and anticipates daily stops in locations where he can resupply.
Averaging an anticipated daily distance of 70 miles – roughly the distance between Tucson and Casa Grande, Ariz. – Mauser expects to return to Tucson within two months.
"I didn't want to jump into a job right away and, who knows, I may never have the chance to do this again," said Mauser, who has a sponsorship from Muscle Milk, a product of CytoSport, and has received financial support from family and friends.
"I made the decision when I realized I could do this and help others," he added. "This is a dream of mine."