Published Date Written by Noelle Barrett
Paul Ziegler died before he could embark on a 3,000-mile bike trip to raise money for peace. But his vision inspired strangers to make the journey in his place.
Bob Gross walked 500 miles. And then he walked 150 more. From Indiana to Elizabethtown, over hills, on highways and trails, through rainy days and windy afternoons. For six weeks, carrying only a backpack with a change of clothes and other essentials.
Why? For peace.
His journey started in March and lasted until May. And it was inspired by a stranger – Paul Ziegler, an Elizabethtown teen who had died.
Ziegler had a dream to ride his bike across the country in 2015 in pursuance of a peaceful world. Before he could do it, he died last September when he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle near McPherson College in Kansas, where he was a student.
Ziegler died doing what he loved, said his mother Deb Ziegler, and his last ride was one sparked by his desire for a peaceful world.
“When Paul went out for his last bike ride, he was thinking of why people had to fight,” she said. “His last text was, ‘I am going to ride bike to be with God.’ ”
Ziegler’s death shook the lives of those who knew him, but his memory inspired a movement for peace through the power of the Internet and his church. That movement spread beyond friends and family, reaching strangers like Gross.
While Ziegler never began the cross-country trip he was planning, others, like Gross, have finished it. They started the 3,000 Miles for Peace Campaign in memory of Ziegler, encouraging people to log miles for peace by walking and riding.
The goal was to reach 3,000 miles, which is about how far Ziegler would have gone on his trip, during this spring and summer. That goal has been surpassed.
As of May 21, 3,815 miles have been traveled, and more than $130,000 has been raised.
The campaign is also raising funds and awareness for the violence-prevention and peace building work of On Earth Peace, an organization that promotes peace in individuals, churches and communities.