Human kindness can manifest itself in many different ways. For Woodbury native Matt Broshat on his bicycle trip around the perimeter of the U.S., it took the form of a $50 can of bear repellent spray, given to Broshat by a local as he headed into the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. As it turned out, Broshat saw a few bears but didn't need to repel them; he still appreciated the gesture.
The 26-year-old Broshat is bicycling around the perimeter of the U.S. to raise awareness about and funds for kids with special needs, through the Young Life Capernaum program (Young Life is a Christian ministry for youth). Broshat became a Young Life volunteer while attending Hill-Murray School as a teen. He worked as a summer camp intern, and after graduating from the University of Minnesota, became the leader of the Capernum program. Participants have various special needs, including autism, Down syndrome, and some physical challenges. Every other Friday evening (when he's in town), Broshat leads a gathering where participants play games, sing songs and hear spiritual messages. They can also attend an annual summer camp near Detroit Lakes.
The son of Jim and Julie Broshat of Woodbury, Broshat loves working with the kids in the program, who range in age from 15 to 22. “I really like the way they love unconditionally," he says. "I don't find that elsewhere. It's a treat being able to be their friend and spend time with them.”
After graduating from the U of M with a marketing degree, Broshat worked for Pepperidge Farm and then Land O'Lakes, commuting to work and back on his bike. Then he decided needed a new challenge, and came up with the idea for the 11,000-mile journey, with the goal of raising $25,000 for Capernum. He says 100 percent of all donations will be used to send kids to the nonprofit's summer camp and other programming.
He's well equipped for the challenge, as an avid biker who put more miles on his bike than his car in 2017. One of his weekend hobbies has been taking long bike-camping trips with his friends, and he also competes in road races, and has won several.
After lining up sponsors who provided a free Diamond “gravel bike” and camping gear, Broshat begin his trip in Portland, Ore. on August 8, rode east along the northern boundary of the U.S., and stopped in Woodbury for a visit in September. He's had a few problems with flat tires, and biking eight to 10 hours a day is obviously tiring, but generally it's been a smooth ride so far, he says. “I got the hills out of the way early." Since then, taking county roads and state highways, he's mostly had “good, wide shoulders to ride on, for the most part.” When we spoke in September, he was enjoying relatively flat terrain that would take him down the East Coast, including the East Coast Greenway, a dedicated bike route from Maine to Key West, Fla.
He's met up with a number of friends along the way, including former high school and college classmates. Then, a friend of his cousin “somehow knows somebody who was generous enough to put me up in a hotel. The generosity I've experienced has been pretty amazing,” he says.
He's been covering 70 to 80 miles a day. Broshat reached Florida by mid-November, and expects to reach San Francisco by mid-January. He regularly posts updates on social media.
For other people who might think about taking on a similar journey, Broshat's advice is upbeat. “For people who are uncertain whether the risk would be worth it, yes, it is. If you have the time and financing to make it work, I would say, 'Go for it.'”