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Last updated: Wed. Jul. 30, 2014 - 06:59 am EDT

Charity bike tour to raise funds for Haiti orphanage

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What: Formula for Life 34- and 52-mile charity bike tour

When: 9 a.m. Aug. 9

Where: Starts at University of Saint Francis, 2701 Spring St.


Cost: $25 with preregistration; $30 after Aug. 3. There will be hamburgers and food served at Deer Park at the end of the ride. All of the money raised will go directly to the orphanage project.

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Formula for Life will hold a bike tour Aug. 9 to raise money to build an orphanage for children whose parents died during the 2010 earthquake.

For the past seven years the philanthropic student-run organization at The University of Saint Francis has been helping Father Andre Sylvestre build an orphanage for the 26 orphans he is housing in his Haitian orphanage, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Currently the children are living in a small rental property in Cap Ha´tien.

Formula for Life has been his only sponsor and so far has raised $75,000 for the project. The new orphanage will not only house the children but also have a chapel, acreage for farming and out=buildings to help the children to become self-sustainable while getting an education.

Sylvestre, who has a master's degree in psychology from Ball State University, was stunned by the numbers of orphans he found wandering the streets after the disaster. He took it upon himself to shelter and educate as many as he could. Unlike many orphanages that look for overseas placement for their children he believes the orphans need to stay in the country, become productive citizens and help to rebuild Haiti.

Because of his Ball State connection he was able to find an architectural student who designed and donated plans for the facility.

The work on the orphanage is well underway and the structure, which initially had been planned as a single-story building, is now going to be two stories. The idea, said Amy Obringer, faculty adviser for the Formula for Life group, is to be able to take in as many children as possible. They will be getting an order of nuns to help run the orphanage and currently they are negotiating with a group, the Daughters of Mary, out of Port-au-Prince. The sisters lost 14 members in the earthquake when their abbey collapsed.

This spring all the children in the orphanage, their caretakers and Sylvestre were ill with Chikugunya, a viral disease transmitted to people by mosquitoes. The school-age children all missed taking their final exams because of the timing of the disease. But they have all since recovered.

This fall Obringer said Formula for Life will send a group of volunteers down to help with the building. The architect will be returning as well. Windows for the building are on site but the volunteers need to help install them. Windows with glass are not typical of most Haitian structures, and screens are not very common either.

Currently Formula for Life is also raising money to build a house for the nuns. They will be sending a modular structure down as soon as they can get the money to purchase it. They have already negotiated free cargo shipping for it.

Obringer said the new orphanage property is adjacent to a road that was recently built to take tourists from the port of Cap Ha´tien to the Citadel, a major historic landmark on the island. Because of this they may someday put in a restaurant and possibly a gas station to attract this business. The revenues would be used to fund the orphanage.

Registration for the bike tour has been a little slow, but Obringer said she hopes they can get at least 60 people to participate. There are two routes to choose from, 34 and 52 miles. The routes will run west toward Columbia City and back with two sag (support and gear) stops along the way for refreshments or bike repairs. No Limits Cycling Team, an under-25 cycling team based in Fort Wayne is helping with the event.

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