Someone might tell Boy Scout Troop 845 leader Brian Burnham that some people raise decent money for charity through bake sales, raffles and car washes.
The particularly ambitious types organize local 5K road races for worthy causes.
Where's the challenge in that?
For Burnham, building visibility and building a bundle of funds for charity is also about building character, even if it means doing things the hard way. Or perhaps it's especially by doing things the hard way.
Last summer, Burnham and 13 young members of his troop set upon Cycle 20Ten, a 66-day, 3,700-mile bicycle trip across the U.S. to build awareness for cancer research awareness, Along the way, participants built integrity, unity and self-confidence.
The trip raised a tidy $25,000 for UNC's Lineberger Cancer Center.
The team of riders from all three local high schools left from Maryland last June and arrived 66 days later at a Pacific Ocean inlet near Anacortes, Washington.
This year will hardly be a bake sale, either.
Today, 21 scouts and leaders from Troop 845 embark upon an endeavor to include a 41-day hike across Spain that will follow the El Camino de Santiago trail. The 500-plus-mile journey will trace the route of an ancient rite of religious pilgrimage.
Pilgrims have followed the route for centuries, crossing the Pyrenees in Southwest France all the way to Western shore of Spain at Finisterra.
"It's a religious pilgrimage trail which dates back 1,000 to 1,200 years old," Burnham explained. "It's called the 'Way of St. James,' because St. James the Martyr was supposed to have been buried near our destination town. Pilgrims just started walking to that site, and churches started popping up along the way such that it became a very religious and spiritual thing. Some of the towns are no more than a church, three or four buildings and maybe a hostel."
While some of his hikers will share in the religious significance, Burnham said that others will simply enjoy the beauty and cultural aspects.
"You're walking along mountain passes, along farmlands and through pastures, or on winding cobblestone streets," Burnham said. There's a huge diversity of areas we'll be walking through."
While the hikers will not face serious mountaineering -- altitudes will not exceed 4,000 feet -- the daily grind will still be a challenge.
"We'll probably be doing anywhere from 16 to 30 miles a day," said Ty Fenton, who was part of the Cycle 20Ten initiative and signed on as a trip leader this summer. "Last year, we'd do a century (100-mile) bike a day on some days, and now there'll be times when we have to do a marathon in a day."
"Everyone's pretty fit to start with. I'm the oldest and probably the least fit," Burnham said, laughing. "A lot are coming off track or baseball seasons, but there'll still be a bit of training on the go."
"It took a while to get in the groove last time -- knowing how to set up and pack up quickly, the best things to buy and the best things to eat," Cycle 20Ten vet Mark Flournoy said.
The keys to success?
"Good morale," Flournoy said, "and staying dry."
In addition to the challenges that plague hikers at any level -- blisters, foot issues, sore ankles and knees -- this endeavor will pose the additional problem of a language barrier.
"There's the fact that we are in Spain, and no one (in the troop) speaks Spanish," Burnham said. "If they need something, they can't just go in and ask for it. Even though there'll be a lot of international folks out on the trail, English won't be so common that you could just walk in somewhere and get a Mountain Dew at a gas station."
Heading for Spain today are 21 youths and leaders, including Flournoy, Matson Conrad, Miles Rosen, Mike Ruston, Aidan Kelley, Hugh Kelley, James Stonecypher, Caleb Roenigk, Kyle Ferriter, Josh DiMauro, Alex Johnson, Will Powell, Daniel Pearce, Kit Brown, Joe Brown and Beau Long.
Leaders include Fenton, Ben Biddix and Burnham, who has hiked the Appalachian Trail, the John Muir Trail, the Annapurna Circuit, scaled Mount Kilimanjaro and biked across America four times. Burnham lives in Chapel Hill and owns the multimedia firm, Cirque Productions. He is also the head coach of the Smith Middle School Cyclone baseball team.
Burnham has never tackled the El Camino de Santiago trail.
"We're playing it by ear," he said. "The hike is considered one of the most classic hikes in the whole world."
"We're going to be in a town every night unless we purposely plan not to be," Fenton said, "because the trail was set up that way. In the olden days when there were thieves along the trail, you could stay in a town every night."
Most days, the hikes will get a jump on summer heat with a 6 a.m. start, averaging just under 20 miles a day to complete the trail in their allotted five weeks.
While the adventurous aspects seem self-evident, the altruism is ever-present, and the gesture is appreciated by Lineberger Cancer Center, the benefactors of $25,000 raised through last year's Cycle 20Ten.
"We're honored that these young men are again raising research funds," said Dianne Shaw, deputy director of communications for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
Burnham urged anyone looking to donate, no matter how small the amount, to do so through the "Donate" link on the trip website ( www.elcamino2011.com
Those wishing to follow along through blogs and photos or to track the hikers' progress can do so through the website.
"None of us have done this trail, so no one knows what to expect," Rosen said. "I think there's less pressure. For the bike trip, I was pretty worried during the days leading up it that I wasn't going to be able to do it. This one, I'm sure I'm going to be capable."
And if these capable adventurers can take this challenge in stride, it's doubtful that next year's fundraiser will involve anything quite as simple as a raffle or bake sale.
Unless, by Brian Burnham's reckoning, it's a bake sale -- in the Himalayas.
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