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From the Bench: BHS Alum Andrew Hoover's Bike Trek Across America Aims to Change Young Lives

By Jeff Toquinto on September 03, 2017 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

When 2008 Bridgeport High School graduate Andrew Hoover decided he wanted to try to bike across America and got permission to do so, he had plenty of incentive. Not only would riding allow him to apply what he would encounter to his job at West Virginia University’s Science Behind the Sports, but there were other incentives as well.
 
The 2012 Summa Cum Laude graduate of WVU with a degree that features a major in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Business Administration found a big one a while back. And it didn’t take long to figure out his excursion from Oregon to North Carolina by way of bike could bring joy to others beyond his family and friends that he may never meet.
 
You see, the fact that Andrew Hoover is riding his bike – at this very moment – from Astoria, Oregon on August 22 to Wilmington, North Carolina perhaps in the second week of October is reason enough to write a blog on Hoover. Although he’s not exactly the first to do it and wont’ be the last, it’s something most people can’t even fathom doing, let alone complete doing it.
 
Yet, there’s much more substance to what Andrew Hoover is doing. There’s much more than perhaps a future lesson plan through teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Energy and Mathematics) Education to school kids and various other groups such a boy and girl scouts, 4-H clubs and others. There’s even more than trying to bike to Charlotte in late September so he can rest a day while attending a friend’s bachelor party.
 
There’s even more than the fact that when he’s finished, he’ll be approaching nearly 4,500 miles on his bike.
 
There’s definitely more. And it all started because of his job and because it took him to the New River Gorge National River in Fayette County to the Boy Scouts Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.
 
The best part is that what comes from this ongoing adventure is the result of the Reserve. What happened there impacted Hoover’s life and that of another youngster and could end up impacting plenty more.
 
Recently, Hoover was working at the Summit Reserve in Fayette County with a group of what he described as “non-conventional” Boy Scouts. Their interests, along with the standard ones of Scouts, were focused more on science and the science behind things – exactly what Hoover does through STEM at WVU.
 
“One of the scouts there was born blind, but he was a super brave kid and very inspiring because this was still a high adventure camp along with the science,” said Hoover. “They were climbing, biking and zip lining and this kid with the disability decided he was going to go as well and I thought that was awesome.”
 
Still, being blind meant this young man couldn’t participate in everything. As it turned out, Hoover’s idea of contacting a family of a student at South Middle School in Morgantown that had what’s known as an adaptive tricycle would pay big dividends for this young man.
 
The tricycle is specifically designed for children with mental and physical disabilities. One day at the camp, it proved to do something that Hoover wasn’t expecting.
 
“I remember he had a rough morning because he took a tumble and I think was feeling a little embarrassed so we broke out the bike, he hopped on and took off. Man, that was empowering,” said Hoover. “The kid was thrilled, but what was even better was that everyone else was thrilled. You could sense the energy in that moment and it just changed everything.
 
“ … My experience with the blind scout at the camp was life changing,” Hoover continued. “It undoubtedly was, but I didn't go to the trouble of borrowing the trike and taking it down there hoping to change my own life, but rather to potentially change (the scout’s life).”
 
Hoover didn’t say so, but I have the feeling it changed both of their lives.
 
That, of course, leads me to what makes Hoover’s cross county trek not only high on the cool scale, but important as well. Hoover decided that as part of his journey to set up a “GoFundMe” account. The goal of the account is to raise $3,600 for the purpose of purchasing two Rifton adaptive tricycles for the youth of West Virginia. The trikes are customizable and different accessories can be added to accommodate a variety of special needs.
 
“To have the opportunity to have this adventure is huge, but to slide this in there for other youth is the kicker,” said Hoover. “That’s what is really important.”
 
It’s also where you can help out. You can visit Andrew’s GoFundMe page by clicking HERE and donating.
 
If one or both are acquired, Hoover said his job will allow him to reach out to county school systems in West Virginia and let those systems know the trikes are available. If necessary, Hoover said the program in which he works has trucks and he can deliver them as needed.
 
“The best case scenario is that it will make an impact in a child’s life,” said Hoover.
 
Of course, none of this would have started without Hoover being in the WVU program where his job is to teach, in a hands-on manner, the principles of math and science and how it relates to sports and adventure-based activities.
 
“It’s a dream job. When I was getting my degree in mechanical engineering, I never could have imagined this would be a career path,” said Hoover.
 
It all started during his senior year in Morgantown where he saw a flyer at WVU. The school was partnering with the Boy Scouts for the new reserve in Fayette County. With the World Jamboree coming up an alliance with WVU seemed to be a good fit for both and it also was an opening for a new and unique career avenue for Hoover.
 
Hoover applied for a graduate assistant position to create a curriculum at the Reserve for zip lining and cycling. After meeting with a supervisor who he said has now become a “great mentor,” Hoover got the gig. Eventually, as he’s been working toward his Master’s Degree, he was hired full time.
 
“I’m a full-time worker and a part-time grad student. I’m working on my Master’s project, which is designing and building a wooden bike,” said Hoover. “I’ve actually been full-time for about three years now.”
 
The juggling of work, athletics and fun shouldn’t surprise anyone that knew Hoover from the time he arrived in Bridgeport in first grade until he graduated 12 years later. While at BHS, he wrestled a couple of years as well as running track and playing football for four years. On top of that, he was a standout in the classroom.
 
“I enjoyed the sports, but I’m not lying when I say I was more of a student that I was an athlete,” Hoover said with a laugh about his time as an Indian.
 
Still, his love for athletics is what has him cycling and what led him to his quest to cross the country. After working lengthy hours with the Boy Scouts in July, Hoover said he had amassed a lot of comp time and pitched the idea to his supervisor – also into adventure sports – and he was on board. However, after learning the trek wasn’t one of 2-3 weeks the supervisor had to get permission from higher up the WVU food chain.
 
“He spoke to (human resources) when he found out it would be in the seven week range and it’s turning into administrative leave because I’m using this as work experience so it’s actually paid time off. I know how fortunate I am and I’m tremendously grateful for the people at WVU for this,” said Hoover.
 
Hoover said he had a chance to talk to WVU President Gordon Gee about his plans. The reaction, he said, was encouraging.
 
“We struck up a conversation about it and he was floored. He did demand that I send him a link so that he could follow me,” said Hoover.
 
As of Tuesday of this week, Hoover said he was three days ahead of schedule. At that time, he was 550 miles into the trip and was departing Oregon and entering Idaho. If you follow his Facebook page (HERE), you can see where he’s at today.
 
“I’m pretty confident I can do this and prepped myself for this trip by riding the length of West Virginia from the top of the northern panhandle to the southernmost part of the state … southwest of Princeton and Bluefield and into Virginia, which was about 450 miles,” said Hoover. “That was to help me get used to some unique terrain.
 
“I needed that because right now I’m pretty much on my own. I have to handle food, navigation and supplies and I’ve actually been spending more on food than I anticipated,” the 27-year-old continued. “It will all work out. I want to finish for my own reasons and I would love to finish and raise the money for those trikes. If it can make another kid and those around a kid with a disability react like I saw at the Reserve, I’d consider doing this again.”
 
Editor's Note: Top photos show Andrew Hoover before he began his journey and second one shows him during his journey in Oregon. The third photo shows a camp site, while the bottom is a photo of one of the bikes he is raising money for. All photos courtesy of Andrew Hoover.


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