For 18-year-old Southwestern Assemblies of God University student Haylee Hartman, this is going to be a long, hot summer. 

Hartman and 25 other folks from around the country, including three of her friends from Oaks Fellowship Church in Red Oak, are riding bikes from San Diego, Calif., to Virginia Beach, Va.

Hartman, who was homeschooled in Duncanville and graduated in 2010, is attending college at the Oaks School of Leadership, which is a part of Southwestern Assemblies of God University.

“I am doing an internship and learning to be a worship pastor with Shane & Shane, a nationally known contemporary Christian group, who are also on the staff of our church. We learn to write songs, recording techniques and media along with our other college classes,” she said. 

As an active member at Oaks Fellowship, Hartman said she couldn’t pass up the chance to take part in the bike ride.

“I heard about it through my church and one of the pastors,” she said. “My friend (and college roommate), Sarah Shryer, first decided she wanted to get involved this past September and she told me her decision to ride, and the more I talked to her, the more I realized I also had a heart for the people of Africa. Sarah’s parents used to be missionaries in Africa and she grew up there.”

Leaving June 9, Hartman said there are 17 riders on the 3,300-mile Southern Tour she is and eight riders on the Pacific Tour. All will end up in Virginia on Aug. 8.

The ride is in conjunction with Blood:Water Mission, a grassroots organization that exists to promote clean blood and clean water efforts in Africa, tangibly reducing the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic while addressing the underlying issues of poverty, injustice and oppression. Blood:Water Mission also builds clean water wells, supports medical facilities and focuses on community and worldview transformation, both in America and in Africa.

Hartman said each church they stop at amongst the 42 cities listed on the Southern Tour will host the cyclists.

“The tour will be coming through the Dallas area on July 7,” she said. “We will be attending the Oaks and participating in a Water Walk, in which we walk as a large group, including others from our church who are not cyclists as well as other community participants, to a nearby water source and carry large containers of water from the source back to the church. This is to remind us and others how difficult it is for those in Africa who spend each day walking long distances to the closest water source, daily, to get dirty water for drinking.”

Hartman, who has been training since December for the ride, said she still needs $2,000 of the $3,500 to participate.

For more information, visit http://www.ridewelltour.org/page/rwt-southern-tour-1.