Riders go distance to raise awareness
The three cyclists who pedaled from Charleston to Los Angeles to raise awareness about child sexual abuse didn't raise as much money as they hoped, but they say they have people thinking about the issue.
Landon Phillips, Mike Allen and Tyler Gilliam arrived in Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon after leaving Charleston on July 31. They were raising money for Darkness to Light.
"It was harder than we thought," Gilliam said Sunday by telephone. "Once we got on the road, we realized the issue is not even in people's realm of reckoning yet."
They raised almost $11,000 on the 4,300-mile trip; they hope that's just the beginning.
"One of our main accomplishments is just to get people to talk about the issue," Gilliam said. "I'm happy to say our ride got people across the whole country talking about it. We were on the news wherever we went."
All along the way, people would notice their "Pedal for Prevention" T-shirts, ask them what they were about, then share their own stories of abuse, he said.
"Everyone from firemen to mothers, it's amazing how many people child sexual abuse touches," Gilliam said.
None of the three cyclists experienced sexual abuse as children, although they say it affects one of every four girls and one of every six boys.
The cyclists were joined in California on Sunday by actress Challen Cates of Nickelodeon's "Big Time Rush" and filmmaker, actor and author Angela Shelton, who shared their stories as abuse survivors.
"It's a difficult subject to discuss," Gilliam said. "But public discussion and education is the only way to fight back and prevent these crimes from occurring. We are committed to opening up that discussion and creating dialogue about prevention all along our trek."
Phillips and Gilliam live in Charleston. Allen is from Scotland. They plan to fly back to Charleston on Wednesday.
Child sexual abuse is linked to a host of social issues including teen pregnancy, psychiatric disorders and substance abuse, and intervention and treatment cost $3.4 billion annually, according to Darkness to Light.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.