Donations Roll In As UNA Exercise Science Student Wraps Up State-Long Unicycle Tour of Alabama

Aug. 26, 2013


Lauren SchifanoBy Hannah Mask, Student Writer

GULF SHORES, Ala. ­— In 17 days and 411 miles, University of North Alabama student Lauren Schifano has raised nearly $3,000 – so far.

Perched atop her unicycle, Schifano, 25, wheeled into Gulf Shores on Aug. 17. She began her journey in Florence on Aug. 1, traveling from the top of the state to the bottom in order to educate those she encountered about childhood obesity. She has obtained two degrees from the university – one in history and one in German, and she is now pursuing a degree in exercise science.

The funding she’s raised, and the donations she continues to receive, will go to Louie’s Kids, a Charleston, S.C., non-profit organization that fights childhood obesity by working with children on a case-by-case basis to determine why the child is overeating.  

Schifano said she received a donation of $250 not even a week ago. With Louie’s Kids, that amount of money may go a very long way. For example, a six-month program can cost as little as $60, according to the organization’s website, louieskids.org.

Though she was happy to make the trip, Schifano said traveling down U.S. 31 on a unicycle certainly had its low points.

“Honestly, it was quite difficult,” she said. “A lot of the way, we were on a two-lane highway. A lot of people were angry and a lot of people were really happy.”

The anger likely stemmed from the (relatively) slow-moving procession, she said. Schifano had a car following her in case she needed to be driven somewhere in an emergency, and her friend Wieland Claes rode alongside her on a bicycle to ensure her safety.

“When we backed up traffic too much, we would pull off,” she said. “On average, nobody waited more than five minutes.”

But because it’s not quite possible to travel the state at breakneck speed while balanced on a unicycle, there was plenty of time for Claes, who lives in Belgium and studies traffic safety, to make observations about how the state might better accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians.

“I saw many things that can be better, like more trails,” he said. “I paid attention to those things.”

According to the 2011 Fatality Analysis Reporting data, the latest year for which the National Center for Statistics and Analysis has released a full set of data, the number of cyclists who were killed in vehicle collisions increased by nearly 9 percent. However, the number of injured cyclists decreased by almost 8 percent, the data shows. 

For Schifano, the trip was worth overcoming any concern she felt about traveling down a two-lane highway on one wheel.

“It’s just exciting to be able to raise a lot of money for nonprofit that you love,” she said.

High-resolution photos of Lauren Schifano and Wieland Claes are available on the UNA Photo Gallery at: http://www.unalionsden.com/archive/album.php?album=Lauren%20Schifano&year=2013