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One man's quest becomes a chance for charity

When Jim Ballenthin of Backus originally thought about biking to and around Lake Superior, it was a personal quest. It soon became his opportunity to raise money for local food shelves.

Ballenthin has been dreaming of his bicycling quest for a long time, increasing his riding and improving his physical health for the last three years. It wasn’t until last winter that he began to actually plan his quest.

In the beginning it was just a personal trip, but friends encouraged him to make it more than that.

“That was one (charity) we really latched onto, because we have been strong supporters of the food shelf in the past, and we continue to do that. It just seemed to be a perfect opportunity to provide a community benefit and also allow me to achieve a personal quest,” Ballenthin said.

Working in collaboration with the Pine River Area Family Center, Ballenthin created a plan to use his roughly 1,600-mile ride to benefit the Pine River Area Food Shelf, the Longville Food Shelf and the Hackensack Food Shelf. He decided he would accept pledges in support of his ride, all of which would be donated to the area food shelves.

Ballenthin and his wife kicked off the donations with $1,600 of their own money. The campaign is called Rolling over Hunger.

Preparation for the event included extensive planning, as well as physical conditioning. Ballenthin intends to carry chains, cables, spokes and other items for emergency repair of his bicycle. He has also packed clothing for a variety of conditions and typical camping gear. He expects to camp during half of his trip; the other half he will stay in motels. Ballenthin is packing light on his food supplies and intends to eat at restaurants to conserve weight.

He expects to ride approximately 75 miles per day.

“Good weather, good winds will maybe shorten the trip or lengthen the mileage I ride each day. Heavy, stormy weather could also do just the opposite. It’s going to be flexible day by day, but the hope is to average 75 miles a day,” Ballenthin said.

Ballenthin’s Rolling over Hunger campaign begins Sept. 3 at his front door. You can track Ballenthin’s progress or make donations at His goal is to raise at least $25,000.

“I think the family center has discussed a goal of $25,000; my wife and I pledged $1,600 right off the bat. I would like to think $25,000 is a very conservative goal,” Ballenthin said. “I would like to think this is something that could really attract some deep pockets and get some substantial contributions from residents who can afford it and businesses.”

Ballenthin lives on Ponto Lake. He has been riding bicycle avidly since he first learned with the help of his father. He usually uses his bicycle as a major form of transportation instead of recreation, though he was once active in competitive sports and competed with the United States Cycling Federation around 1967-69. He also competed in running, swimming and diving. He and his wife also donate money and time to other various charities, though this is the first charity for which he has biked.