After a long day of classes and conflicts, Lauren Haviland ’15 shuffled to Gonzaga Hall for Glee Club practice at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21. As she indifferently took her seat, she leisurely pulled out her iPhone and scrolled through her emails. When her eyes fell upon one email, her day and her future were completely changed.
Haviland received an acceptance letter to participate in the Bike & Build program this summer. The team will depart from North Carolina on May 13 and bike to California by July 21. Along the way, the group of 30 members will stop to build homes, while cycling anywhere from 60 to 100 miles a day, with only two full rest-days. The riders will sleep in houses with host families, as well as schools, churches and community centers. These hosts will also be responsible for providing their food.
“You can’t live without a roof over your head. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to be a part of this cause,” Haviland explained.
Part of the experience includes surrendering the luxuries that these riders are accustomed to. Though the one technological device they are able to bring is cell phones, service throughout the trip is predicted to be spotty.
The national nonprofit prides itself on raising awareness and money for affordable housing. Fourteen days will be dedicated to working with affordable housing organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and small local housing nonprofits. The group will be building houses in cities like Chapel Hill, Calif., Little Rock, Ark., Colorado Springs, Colo. and Prescott, Ariz.
“She’s living my dream,” said her father Michael Haviland ’82. “We’re excited … we’re over the moon about it!”
Just last week, Haviland surpassed her requirement of raising $4,500 by $200. “We are deeply proud of riders like Lauren who are so committed to the affordable housing cause that she is willing to raise much-needed funds and spend over two months biking across the country,” said Justin Villere, Bike & Build’s director of operations and outreach. “Bike & Build provides the opportunity, but it is the riders who make the lasting impact in so many communities.”
Haviland described her pull to the program, saying, “It’s something that, for whatever reason, the first time I read about it, I thought that is something I want to do. It just clicked with me.”
Haviland is no stranger to hard work and intense exercise. With dreams of joining the Rockettes, Haviland’s dreams were quickly crushed in April of her senior year when she was diagnosed with patellofemoral syndrome, a recurring and painful knee injury. With a slight addiction to exercise, Haviland turned to any outlet she could find.
She tried swimming, lifting, spinning, yoga and eventually running. Her parents also influenced this road to recovery by encouraging their daughter to participate in their passion: cycling. Though her two older brothers, Tyler Haviland ‘13 and Mike Haviland did not want to join in on the family fun, Haviland and her parents made day trips out of biking from their home in Ridgewood, N.J., up the Tappan Zee Bridge. Enjoying family lunches amid the journey, these 60-mile weekend rides were always fun for Haviland.
In addition to this new-found love, Haviland discovered a way to connect her exercise to a familial cause. A few years ago, Haviland’s grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Because he resides in upstate New York, Haviland is unable to visit her grandfather as much as she would like to. Last September, Haviland participated in her first century ride, a 100-mile bike ride to support her grandfather and raise awareness and money for Parkinson’s Disease.
“My parents had more faith in me than I had in myself,” Haviland admitted. “They said I would be fine, and I was.”
When she returned from studying abroad in Spain last summer, she began her training for the century ride. Though she did not stick to a strict regimen, Haviland exercised daily. “It’s my stress reliever,” she said. “It’s my time.”
On the first Saturday in September, Haviland woke up at 6:30 to an unusually cold and overcast morning in Maine. “I was not prepared for it,” Haviland chuckled. “My legs were numb.”
As she prepared for her first long cycling feat, she noticed the beach shacks that were neighboring the humble hotel she was staying in. Eating a small bowl of oatmeal, Haviland explained the whole experience to be very humbling.
At 7 a.m., Haviland and her parents reported to the starting line. Soon into the race, Haviland’s family settled into a pacing group that helped to carry them along. A few times throughout the trip, the members stopped to refuel and rehydrate at the rest stops.
“The further into it you get, you just get a block. It flies by,” she said. As the day went on, the sun peaked through the clouds and the fog dissipated. When they completed the journey, the sun was shining and the temperature had reached the 70’s.
“It was really fun. I had never done anything like that and the community that the cyclists had is just very encouraging,” said Haviland. “It’s such a unique community that I was never exposed to.”
Haviland is proud of her accomplishment of completing the century ride and was inspired to apply for Bike & Build this summer. “One of the women told me that she loves Bike & Build and they host people all the time,” she explained, identifying the final push that encouraged her to apply for the summer experience.
The psychology and Spanish double major has always had a passion for service. While she is a member of Fairfield’s Health Professions Program studying occupational therapy, she also strives to live by the Jesuit values, specifically Men and Women for Others.
“Lauren is passionate and determined with everything she is involved in. Bike & Build is a program which encompasses two very important aspects of her life: fitness and helping others,” said Jenelle Abbatista ’15, one of Haviland’s best friends and previous roommates. “This is an ideal opportunity to help her grow and learn. I am so proud of her and I know it will be an incredible experience.”
In preparation for her big summer adventure, Haviland devotes at least one hour a day to working out at The Edge. If weather permits, she plans to hit the pavement for a long ride on Saturday for the first time this season. Haviland plans on devoting a few hours every weekend for her long rides of about three hours, traveling around 60 miles.
Though Haviland admitted some hesitations for the upcoming trip, such as sleeping on floors and doing communal laundry, her emotions are dominated by excitement. “I think it is going to be a very eye-opening experience,” she said. “As much as they’ve told us about it, I’m really excited to just start.”
At the beginning of the trip, Haviland will dip the back wheel of her bike into the Atlantic Ocean. She is anxiously anticipating the moment at the end of her journey when she will dip her front wheel into the Pacific Ocean in San Diego.