LaGrange Park man bikes for a cause
LaGrange Park orchestra teacher Jeff Teppema bikes to work everyday. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
How to help
Donate online: mikesbikesafrica.com
Mail: checks payable to Mikes Bikes Africa, 24 Tiburon St., San Rafael, CA 94901 with Dave & Jeff for Lesotho on the memo line
Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: April 15, 2013 2:12AM
LAGRANGE PARK — Orchestra teacher Jeff Teppema is gearing up for the ride of his life. Teppema and friend Dave Gorman have raised $20,000 to ship 500 bikes in July to AIDS orphans in Lesotho at the southern tip of Africa. The two plan to ride 350 miles and distribute the bikes.
Q. How did you choose this project?
A. Dave was a Peace Corps volunteer in the ’80s and ’90s in Lesotho, and he knows the people and culture. We were on a bike ride reminiscing about Africa and thought we ought to get back, but we weren’t quite sure how or why. Dave remembered he never saw one bicycle in Lesotho in three years. Lesotho has the highest incidence of AIDS orphans in the world.
Q. Why send bikes as a way to help?
A. Dave and I feel strongly about bikes as a great mode of transportation. It will be fun for the kids to lean to ride, and they’ll be able to get somewhere, to school and the market. It’s fun with a purpose to improve their lives.
Q. How did you hear about Mikes Bikes?
A. We did an Internet search and found this organization in California already shipping containers of donated bikes to Sub Saharan Africa, and they already have a partner in Lesotho.
Q. What’s your connection to Africa?
A. My mom organized tours at Elmhurst College, and I went along to Kenya in 1979 when I was 14. It completely changed my world view.
Q. How did you raise $20,000?
A. We started the project in early August and we’ve already made our financial goal. We spoke at high schools and Kiwanis clubs and used technology with email blasts and Facebook. What happened was really humbling when people stepped up and started donating. I was stunned we reached our goal in three months. We’re still collecting to raise $4,000 for helmets and locks.
Q. What to you like about bicycling?
A. There’s something about getting on a bike and peddling that relaxes me and makes me happy. I’m not a competitive rider; it’s for pure pleasure and getting around. Last year I rode over 8,000 miles.
Q. How did you become a music teacher?
A. I played violin my whole life. I was in banking and legal work for most of my working life, but I got tired of the long hours and always being on call. Soon after 9/11, I opened a music studio and went back to school. I have 150 students in fourth through eighth grade in La Grange Elementary District 102.
Q. Will your family be going with you to Africa?
A. My wife, Sara, and daughters Aidan, 17 and Cecilia and Blaine, 14, will be home doing other things.
Q. What will your trip be like?
A. We’re going to be riding 350 miles through the mountains and into villages, and hopefully we’ll get to distribute the bikes and maybe teach some kids how to ride.