Cyclists, swimmers aim to transport piano from Flint to Mackinac Island
(FLINT, Mich. – Aug. 25, 2017) Today marked the kick off of “Sprint 4 Flint: Ride, Swim, Play, Give,” the latest project from Mr. B’s Joybox Express, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit that raises awareness for charitable organizations by taking its custom-made piano bike on the road.
The fundraising campaign – which entails transporting the 385-pound piano from Flint to Mackinac Island using manpower alone – will benefit art programming provided through YouthQuest, an afterschool and summer program that serves 2,000 students in Flint and Genesee County each year.
“Joybox Express supports organizations that engage youth through arts and athletics, and I’m excited to bring that mission back to my hometown of Flint,” said Mark “Mr. B” Braun, Founder and President of Mr. B’s Joybox Express.
Braun and the Joybox Express team departed Flint this morning, with the goal of reaching their first destination – Mackinaw City – within 24 hours. The piano-bike seats three cyclists, one in the front and two in the rear. A team of 50 cyclists, who each raised $500 to participate in the effort, will take turns powering the rear bikes, switching in new riders every 10 miles.
After completing the 240-mile ride, the volunteers will move the piano-bike aboard a 52’ dive boat in St. Ignace. Then, on Aug. 29, Braun and seven other swimmers will don harnesses strapped to the bow of Blue Water, and tow the boat to British Landing on Mackinac Island. They will be led by Jim “The Shark” Dreyer, who holds 19 world records in long-distance swimming.
While on the island, Braun – an internationally renowned blues and jazz pianist – will perform Sept. 2 during the Grand Hotel Labor Day Jazz Weekend.
Braun, who graduated from Southwestern Classical Academy in 1975, has appeared on numerous National Public Radio broadcasts (i.e., All Things Considered, Mountain Stage, etc.) and won several awards through the Detroit Metro Times and the City of Ann Arbor. Additionally, for some time, he was the youngest living member of the National Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame.
“This is an ambitious journey that requires creativity, commitment and passion,” said Rhetta Hunyady, Vice President of Education & Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, which oversees YouthQuest. “We are grateful to Mr. B’s Joybox Express for using this campaign as a platform to support YouthQuest and inspire our students.”
The Sprint4Flint bike ride and swim are just one part of a year-long fundraising campaign that Joybox Express has led in support of YouthQuest. The nonprofit has also hosted galas and worked with Ann Arbor area schools on various fundraisers. An online art auction supporting the cause ends Sept. 5 and is available here.
According to Hunyady, the funding will help support YouthQuest’s art programming – a core part of the program’s curriculum – as well as ArtQuest 2018. The annual art exhibition, held each spring, will feature more than 2,000 pieces of student-created artwork revolving around the theme of physical fitness.
For more information about or to donate to Sprint4Flint, visit www.joyboxexpress.com/donate.
To learn more about YouthQuest, which is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, visit www.yquest.org.
YouthQuest is a high-quality, research-based afterschool program offering educational and enrichment activities that engage young minds. Available at 15 sites in the city of Flint and Genesee County, YouthQuest serves 2,000 students in grades K-12 each year. The program is administered by the Genesee Area Focus Fund, a supporting organization of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers. For more information, visit www.yquest.org.