BRATTLEBORO - Bicycling for a cause is exactly what John Guiliano has been doing for the past 20 years. Guiliano created the Tamarindo Foundation to help the people of Guarjila in El Salvador.
To raise money for the foundation, he will begin a cycling tour on Aug. 5 in Boston, passing through 74 cities in this 4,592 mile journey to El Salvador.
Dale Forrister, of Dummerston, has gone to the Tamarindo center twice while a student at Lewis and Clark College. He said that going to Tamarindo and helping the children and locals inspired him.
"We've developed a close relationship with the people there," Forrister said.
Across America youth groups and centers are places for children to spend time in a safe, educational environment, but this is not the case everywhere else in the world. The Tamarindo community center is a safe haven for people living in this impoverished, often dangerous area.
"My community always supported me and this is a place for these kids to find 24-hour support and safety," Forrister said.
He said Guiliano hopes to raise money on this latest bicycle tour - called "Give Kids a Chance" - to fix up the Tamarindo community center. The need is growing and the center is in desperate need of repair, said Forrister.
In addition to raising money, he said, the bike tour is a way to promote awareness for the community of Guarjila.
Guiliano, who grew up in New York City, practiced as a Jesuit seminarian before
El Salvador was ripped apart by civil war which lasted 12 years, and Guiliano spent six years there during that time.
In 1992, said Forrister, Guiliano returned on his "Time to Heal Tour," pedaling more than 8,000 miles from New York City to El Salvador.
When he arrived, he helped create the Tamarindo bike shop, which turned into the Tamarindo community center. What began as one bicycle in a converted chicken coop turned into a learning and athletic community center for the area's children, said Forrister.
"It started out as a chicken coop and 20 years later it has grown and developed into a strong, vibrant community helping and supporting each other," he said. "The kids play a lot of soccer and hockey there, which is incredible. They do so much with the center there."
The Tamarindo community center has flourished since being created. Along with a makeshift hockey and soccer arena, there are educational and other activities for community children.
At the community center they can escape the poverty, drugs, and violence of the area and just be kids for a while, said Forrister. A fellow intern said the center is not only a place for recreation and community, but a promise for the future.
"It represents economic opportunity for Guarjila," said the intern.
"The bike tour is the big fundraiser," said Forrister, adding that every donation helps the center provide activities, education, and simply a safe place for the children of Guarjila.
If the dream becomes a reality, the complex will host a state-ofthe- art hockey rink fit for international tournaments, a hostel run by Tamarindos, workshops, recreation spaces, a gym, and more.
"They say that if you build it they will come, but the truth is that they are already here," said the intern.
Volunteers will be walking, running, and cycling along with Guiliano during sections of his trip.
To donate, visit www.givekidsachance.us. You can also follow Guiliano on Twitter at twitter.com/johnguilano.
Carleen Busick will be a senior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the fall. She is a summer intern with the Reformer and lives in Wardsboro.