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Joseph Machado: From Wheelchair to Biking Across America

Pedaling 75 miles a day in triple-digit temperatures is not a normal thing for a 13-year old to do, especially a boy after spending year in a wheelchair. However, Joseph Machado isn't a normal kid. He's not a kid who is content to just sit around playing computer games all day. He made a decision to inspire other teens to do great things for their community, and he published his decision in hot, sweating style.

Because of this, during the summer of 2010, Joseph and his family headed off across America from Southern California to Washington D.C. Here's his story in his own words, and those of his parents.

How did you come up with the idea to bike 3,000 miles across the country?

I was in a wheelchair for several months due to various sporting accidents.  I was one of the luck ones who got out of my wheelchair and wanted to do something to help disadvantaged kids.  Since I am only 13 yrs old, I decided the one thing I could do is bike across America to raise money for kids who can’t afford the treatment they need.  So, I got on my bike on June 5, 2010 and left from Central Park in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and headed towards Washington DC.

Did the family travel with Joseph on his journey or did he go alone?

Mom - We followed him in a vehicle and had a police escort for the most part.  We are so grateful to the police, firefighters, churches and the many people who helped keep Joseph safe and provide a place to sleep.  We slept in fire stations, police stations, bomb shelter, churches, pastor’s homes, homeless shelter and sometimes a hotel would comp our rooms.

Dad – I drove our SUV pulling a trailer full of our supplies for a two month trip. Also in the trailer were extra bike supplies, spare tires, nutritional snacks, tubes and a backup bike. While I drove our SUV, Joseph would normally stay about 20 to 30 feet ahead of us. Going down hill he would sometimes pick up speeds around 45 to 50 miles an hour and I would be much further behind him so I would be able to stop if anything happened.

At the beginning of the trip cars would pass us and then cut in at the last moment narrowly missing Joseph.  We learned that we had to stay as close as possible to shield him from this. Our 16 year old daughter Mercedes also rode in the car with us and took thousand of pictures of Joseph riding next to road markers and signs so that we could document his efforts.  Also Mercedes and Joseph would hand off water bottles and nutritional snacks back and forth, while I drove, so Joseph could keep up his speed. My wife would normally sit in the back seat and would coordinate with police, media, etc. She spent a lot of her time on the phone and computer.

When Joseph would stop we all had our responsibilities to assist Joseph like getting him out of the hot sun and humidity and into the air conditioned car. Also refilling his bottles and checking air pressure of his tires and general bike inspection.

Teen Biking Across AmericaWhat were your goals for the journey?

My goals were to raise money for disadvantaged kids, encourage kids to support their communities and let kids know they are never too young to make a difference. I raised $30K in money and services.

What’s the most interesting or memorable experience that happened during your journey?

Joseph– I was able to meet with various groups such as kids at Camp Quality (a camp for kids with cancer), Cincinnati Aquatic Program for disabled kids, etc.  I enjoyed meeting people in different states that were so kind and hospitable.  I was attacked by a swarm of bees and one flew in my mouth and stung me.  I road through 120 degree temperatures as well as rain storms.

What advice do you have for other kids who want to make a difference?

I would encourage them to go forward with their dreams.  Ask your parents, teachers, pastors, etc for advice on how to reach your goals.  Remembering that no matter what problems you are having in your life that you can still make a difference. There is no greater feeling than helping someone else and your community.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to continue to raise money for disadvantaged kids, encourage kids to support their communities and hopefully inspire kids to make a difference.

What other accomplishments have you had?

  • I received the Barnum Gold Award which donated $1000 to a charityJoseph's Award
  • Gov Henry of Oklahoma declared 6/24/10 Joseph Machado day
  • Mayor Mallory declared 7/7/10 Joseph Machado day in Cincinnati
  • Bedford, Indiana, made me an honorary Fire Fighter and I received an official firefighters badge

There are more but to me the greatest accomplishment are the kids that I was able to raise money for and help.  Like 9 yr old Rudy who was born at 22 weeks with oxygen deprivation to the brain.  He is now receiving vital treatment which he needs (totaling over $11K) that has helped him so much.

How does it feel to be raising such and inspiring teen?

Mom
– I am very proud of his selfless spirit and willingness to help others.  He has inspired me to be a more giving person.

Dad – Very proud.  While watching Joseph daily, it amazed me how each day he continued to ride his bike with more and more focus, drive, ambition and strength.  Never, not even once, did he complain or even suggest that the trip was too much for him! He never complained that it was too hot, or that he was too sore, or that he might need an extra days rest.

What do you see in Joseph’s future?

Mom – I don’t know what God’s plan is but I do see a life of blessings. Joseph is very humble and doesn’t like to be the center of attention.  While he was riding across the country, he was on TV and newspaper almost daily. He would not watch himself on TV because in his heart he was doing this for the kids.

Dad – Joseph has shown that he has the attributes of a leader. Considering that he is only thirteen, I’m amazed. I’m not sure that I’ve ever known anyone that would have rode a bike with such intensity day after day and not once complaining about the heat, or being too sore to go on. His attitude towards his family members was always amazingJoseph at a camp for kids with cancer. He continued to show great heart and character day after day.

For more info about Joseph, visit these following links:

Joseph's Official Website: BikingForAmerica.com

Video: Indiana news coverage about Joseph

Video: Joseph talks about his trip

Image Credit(s): BikingforAmerica.com

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