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August 5, 2010
By Mary Hunton
Every year, the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) awards four $5,000 scholarships to students in hospitality and nutrition fields. The $20,000 is funded through a variety of donations and benefits, as well as an annual silent auction. This year, however, the money allotted to these scholarships has almost doubled.
Russ Meyer, associate director for Housing Operations and Dining Services at the University of Nevada, Reno, raised more than $17,000 this year to go toward the Clark E. DeHaven Scholarship.
How did Meyer do this?
By riding his bike.
This year’s NACUFS conference was in San Jose, Calif. During the Fourth of July weekend, Meyer spent four days riding the 270-mile journey from Reno to attend the conference, with individuals and companies pledging money per mile.
“I’ve done a lot of bike riding in the past few years,” Meyer said. “I thought it would be fun to do a multiple-day ride. I figured this would be a good opportunity.”
The event generated a lot of interest. Meyer met with the trustees of the scholarship fund and worked out a press release for the drive. They offered the opportunity to everyone in the membership to pledge money to the cause. People who pledged at least $50 got a T-shirt.
“Individual pledges were everywhere from $25 (one cent per mile) to $500 (two dollars per mile),” Meyer said. “I had two individuals pledge $500, personal funds.”
There was a lot more notice than that, though. About 10 companies also agreed to pledge for Meyer’s trip. The NACUFS is split into six regions, and each of the regions contributed funds to the drive. The success of Meyer’s ride is clear in the results.
“We ended up getting $17,000 in pledges,” Meyer said. “That’s over three scholarships. We almost double the scholarships for next year.”
Overall, the trip ended up taking Meyer four days to complete. He left Reno after work on Friday and did 50 miles. The second day he went up over the Sierra with 86 miles. On the third day he rode 71 across California’s Central Valley, and on Monday it was 63 miles into San Jose.
“It felt great,” Meyer said. “The weather was perfect. I didn’t have any flats. I didn’t have any crashes. When I was getting close to San Jose I was smiling the whole time. The last ten miles or so you know you’re going to make it. It’s just kind of exciting.”
Though this year’s ride was such a success, Meyer does not think he will be riding to next year’s conference for pledges. The 2011 NACUFS conference is in Dallas, Texas, which is quite a bit further away. However, he is willing to do something to bring in the same kind of funds.
“That $17,000 was all new money,” Meyer said. “It’s out there and people are willing to give it. We just have to figure out a way to make it fun to give that money.”