Survivor and servant

Allen Slabaugh '09

Majors: business administration, sport management
Student programs coordinator/Bicycle Adventure trip leader,
The Fuller Center for Housing, Americus, Ga.

Allen SlabaughBefore March 2, 2007, Allen Slabaugh was admittedly focused on baseball. But like others on the Bluffton team bus that crashed that morning in Atlanta, he was changed by the experience.

"The accident redirected me a lot," says Slabaugh, 24, who calls it "a miracle" that he escaped with cuts on his back and a few stitches on one knee. No longer feeling invincible, he realized "I was blessed to be able to play baseball, and for each day on Earth I'm given," he explains.

The Dalton, Ohio, native gained a desire to serve others, but two years later, after earning degrees in business administration and sport management and completing two internships with minor league baseball teams, he didn't feel he could do that on the business side of baseball. So he applied to work with Habitat for Humanity through Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS), which he had heard about at Bluffton.

A new adventure.

Last summer, Slabaugh participated in the "Bicycle Adventure" sponsored by the Fuller Center for Housing, also a nonprofit agency based, like Habitat, in Americus, Ga. He rode roughly 600 miles of the total trip and helped build a house in New Orleans.

While with Habitat, he also got to know Bicycle Adventure founder Ryan Iafigliola, who asked Slabaugh about leading the trip this year. Seeing it as where God was leading him, with the opportunity to combine service with his athletic ability and love of the outdoors, Slabaugh said yes. That's why he decided to stay in MVS for another year, beginning last September, and work with the Fuller Center.

He plans to pedal the entire 3,600-mile route, beginning June 10 in Seattle and ending Aug. 14 in Washington, D.C. As of late April, 22 other riders had registered to go the distance, while 34 had agreed to join the group for one or two of the trip's nine segments.

Why he's riding.

Riders will average six to seven hours and 75 miles on their bikes daily, raising money for the Fuller Center and awareness of the low-income housing issue in general. They will also help with seven house
projects, culminating with one for a paralyzed veteran in northern Virginia.

"Being able to provide someone with a good home can change their life," says Slabaugh, who hopes to see the four-year total of funds raised reach $500,000. "That's something I have a strong passion for."

A long road, but Bluffton-backed.

He admits to being "a little nervous" about the cross-country ride, having never gone farther than his 600-mile trip last year. "It's tough to train for an event like this," he adds. "You don't have the time to put in that amount of miles."

As this year's leader, more of his time has been spent with marketing and other business-related aspects of the event. He cites his experience in marketing classes at Bluffton as helpful, along with the influence of business faculty members Bill Lyons, now assistant professor emeritus, and associate professors Gary Schiefer and Dr. Peter Suter.

In the end, "I want to do something that can change lives and help people," Slabaugh says. "It's just a way for me to give back. I've been blessed."

Follow the trip via the 2011 Bicycle Adventure blog