Vail author seeing America the slow way, again, riding bike to D.C. to advocate for children worldwide | VailDaily.com

Vail author seeing America the slow way, again, riding bike to D.C. to advocate for children worldwide

Shad Finney loves to look at America the slow way. It gives him time to wander and wonder.

Finney, the author of a children's book that promotes peace and humanity, sets off in July for a Colorado-to-Washington, D.C., bicycle ride. He thought he was leaving in May, but life happens, so it's July.

The idea is simple: to advocate for the nonprofit international relief organization Neighbors in Humanity, as well as his children's book, "Just One Planet," which shares the idea that we share one planet and we're all in this together.

Every dime from the book goes to Neighbors in Humanity.

He points out early and often that 16,000 children younger than 5 die every single day, mostly from preventable causes.

"People should not have to die from poverty. We don't have to give them everything, but they shouldn't die from it," Finney said.

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Stroller to roller

This time, he'll roll across America. He has strolled across America.

In 1991, Finney was 21 when he walked across the United States in support of children's programs. That jaunt took five months and covered 3,000 miles, from the Santa Monica Pier to Manhattan. He said he had no idea how much money he had raised when he arrived in the Big Apple, but he felt great and it was worth every step.

Along the way, he wore out three pairs of leather hiking boots, and the two hiking companions with whom he started.

The New York Times wrote about it. Keith Richards donated $1 million to that 1991 World Summit for Children. All very heady stuff for a kid barely old enough to vote for, or against, the politicians he was badgering.

"The main thing was trust. I lived like a real live rolling stone. I'd pull up my backpack and head out the door for the next town," Finney said.

He left California with "zero cash," relying on the kindness of the people he met along the road for food, shelter and supplies. He met hundreds of wonderful people, and a few less-than-wonderful dogs, which taught him to scramble up trees with a heavy backpack.

On Nov. 26, 1991, Finney told the Rocky Mountain News that the trip taught him "you can trust people a whole lot more than most people think."

He headed south from New York to Washington to help lobby for the Family Preservation Act, which passed in 1993.

He was so happy, he decided to do it again in 1993.

He went from seriously heady stuff to serious head injuries.

A gang of 16 people near the Pacific Ocean attacked him in Los Angeles. He was beaten so badly he spent 30 days in a hospital.

"It reminded me how far I would go to do this," Finney said.

'Just One Planet'

Finney is 48 now and is back on the road with his children's book, "Just One Planet." It's inspired by the song, "We Share Just One Planet," written by teachers Sarah Stevens and Catharine Marchese in Bloomington, Indiana, who performed it with 300 students after the 9/11 tragedies.

The performance inspired Finney to create a national day to remind people of their connection. Every Sept. 12 is now Just One Human Family Day.

"It spreads the message that we're sisters, we're brothers, we're neighbors, we all are friends, we all are one human family from the beginning to the end," Finney said. "My hopes are perhaps in the future that all schools around the country and perhaps the world sing the song on Just One Human Family Day as a process of healing and sharing possibility."

Finney said raising both money and awareness is necessary:

• Money to buy vaccines, food and water and provide other medical facilities to at-risk children.

• Awareness because most people don't realize that, around the globe, vulnerable children are facing threats to their lives on a scale we've never seen before.

For example:

• 50 million children are currently fleeing war, violence and poverty.

• 2.4 million children are on the brink of starvation in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen.

• After six brutal years of war, many Syrian children have never lived a day in peace.

• 16,000 children younger than 5 die every single day, mostly from preventable causes.

In Washington, D.C., he plans to reach out to policy makers who most need to hear his message.

"Children should be first priority for food, clothing and shelter," Finney said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

How to help

Proceeds from Shad Finney’s children’s book, “Just One Planet,” will be used by the charitable relief agency Neighbors in Humanity to buy vaccines, food, water and provide other medical facilities to at-risk children. He’s set a goal of 1,000 pre-orders during the course of the bike ride. Pre-order at http://www.gofundme.com/justoneplanet ”>http://www.gofundme.com/justoneplanet.