By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
As the Rev. Eric Shadle rode into Strasburg Tuesday morning, a group of pre-school students welcomed him with cheers of excitement.
Shadle started biking from Richland, Wash.. on July 8 to raise funds and awareness for the need for diapers across the country. The former physician learned about the issue when members of his church presented it to him and asked to start a diaper bank.
Though he was up for a sabbatical last summer, the pastor couldn't decide what to do, so he put it off until this year when he decided to make the 3,700 mile journey for the cause.
"I figured if I didn't know about the need for diapers, then there's probably a lot more people who don't," he said Tuesday.
Shadle was worried he might not be able to complete the task when he had open heart surgery in February. However, he's been accompanied by a coach and has monitored his fitness throughout the entire trip. Aside from a semi-lenghty head cold last month, Shadle's experience has been "blessed."
"You can't hide from yourself when you do something like this," he said of the journey. "I've learned that I make a lot of excuses for why I can't do things, but I decided to push through and not let anything stop me."
Originally Shadle had hoped to raise $250,000 to donate one million diapers to banks and charities across the country, and as of Tuesday, enough funds have been donated to purchase more than 400,000 diapers. Two diaper banks were started while he passed through Missouri and Kentucky, which Shadle said was "very gratifying."
Ann McBroom, Executive Director of A Small Hand in Edinburg, brought eight community members out to ride with Shadle through Shenandoah County and organized for three groups of pre-schoolers to wave the pastor on as he rode through Mt. Jackson, Woodstock and Strasburg.
"He was delighted to see the kids come out," she said Tuesday. Shadle added that seeing the children made "the whole trip worth-while."
Sheriff Timothy Carter was one person who joined Shadle for the ride.
"Shenandoah County is a very generous county, and it's been really nice to see the support today," he said. "There's a lot of people that don't have the funds to take care of basic needs for their children, and [Shadle] is bringing that into focus."
A Small Hand is one organization that has benefited from the effort. The group, which assists infants and their parents with basic supplies, received $750 and two large bags of diapers, McBroom said.
"It was a very uplifting day. The idea was to raise awareness for the need, and I think we did just that," she said. "Most of the parents who come see us are excellent, they just lack the tools they need to do the job. A lot of things become impossible if you don't have diapers."
Wednesday, Shadle will arrive at his stopping point in Silver Springs, Md. On Thursday, he has several appointments on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C, to talk about the issue.