Cody Clements. 21, of Darlington comes from a “big military family.”
His father served in the Vietnam War, his sister in Afghanistan and his brother in Iraq.
“They’ve all done a lot for the country,” Clements said.
To pay tribute to his family and other veterans, Clements, along with two of his friends, are raising money for The Wounded Warrior Project for The Rickshaw Run, an 1,800-mile charity race across India, organized by travel and leisure group The Adventurists.
“My whole life has been affected by the lives of soldiers,” Clements said. “I’ve seen the struggle of people who don’t get the support they need.”
In addition to The Wounded Warrior Project, the team will raise money for the race’s official charity, Cool Earth, which works to end rainforest destruction.
Clements, who is studying theology at St. Vincent College, has travelled to India in the past. He completed a study abroad program in India last year, during which he learned about various religions.
“There was literally a Hindu or Buddhist temple anywhere you went on the street,” he said. “I’d just observe how they worshipped, and all the people were more than glad to tell me about the religion.”
“Every day was just a learning experience,” he said.
A member of the St. Johns United Church of Christ in Darlington, Clements once travelled to Zimbabwe for a two-months-long mission trip. He would like to become a minister.
His mother, Daryl Hlavsa, 60, said Clements learned from his church about the importance of helping others. She is both nervous and excited for her son’s rickshaw journey.
“I think he is the right age to do it where it can be a great adventure,” she said.
During his study abroad trip, Clements shared a room with Evan Anderson, 29, of Boise, Idaho, who is studying social work at Boise State University.
Anderson enjoyed everything about his stay in India, such as the “silly situations” he and Clements encountered, like getting stuck in a monsoon and arguing with rickshaw drivers over the cost of a ride.
“It’s the exact opposite side of the world from us, and the culture is the exact opposite, too,” Anderson said.
Several months ago, Clements and Anderson stumbled upon a YouTube video about The Rickshaw Run and felt compelled to get involved.
“We just fell in love with India, the culture and the lifestyle,” Anderson said. “We had always discussed maybe later on in life we could both go back. When this opportunity arose we were just like, ‘Wow, we get to go back sooner than we expected.’”
Clements also recruited fellow St. Vincent College student, Brody Ruffner. Clements said they are “all gonna be cruising together” on the rickshaw, with a driver’s seat and bench for passengers.
They are challenged to devise their own route from Cochin, India to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. It will take two weeks to complete the race.
“It’s up to each team to decide what direction to go,” Clements said.
Clements is more concerned about studying the culture so that he can acclimate better during the trip.
“We know we’re going to get lost, so there’s no sense in planning the entire route,” Clements said.
The team must fund all travel expenses, as well as the rental and any repairs of their rickshaw. They also have to obtain their motorcycle and international licenses.
To cover expenses and fundraise for their charity, the team is collecting donations online at youcaring.com/other/three-friends-rickshawing-for-charity/168264. Their goal is $5,000.
Clements’ brother, Calvin Clements, 33, of Ligonier thinks the charity race is “pretty interesting.”
“I think it’s maybe one of the different, nontraditional routes for raising money,” he said.
As a veteran, he thinks his brother’s decision to raise money for The Wounded Warrior Project is great.
“They really do help people out,” he said. “They help a lot of disabled people, amputees and burn victims.”
Clements is most excited to return to the country he has hoped to see again, though, this time around, he and his team will be their own tour guides. “I just hope that through going on this trip, we can experience a culture on our own,” he said.
To experience the Indian culture and adventure for yourself, check out our Bangalore, India program.
What’s it like to ride a Rickshaw? Watch below for “Rickshaw – Maximum Speed!”