MIAMI–It seems like a mission impossible: Biking 40 miles a day for 40 days, stopping only to sleep or host an event, seeking to drive home the message of healthy living in communities across Florida.
And yet, standing in the lobby of the historic Lyric Theater in Overtown Wednesday morning, Sept. 2, looking over a sparse crowd of friends and supporters, the men of Be Organic catering company did not seem fazed. In fact, their spirits were high.
"You must commit to something so magnificent, failure is guaranteed unless you depend on God," said Chad Cherry, one of the company's founding members and the self-proclaimed "Big Mouth" of the crew.
The gathering kicked off Be Organic's Takeover Tour, a state-wide bike ride that started in Miami, heads north to Jacksonville, west to Tallahassee, down to Naples, and ends back in Miami around Oct. 12 or so.
Along the way, Be Organic will stop at schools to give workshops on affordable organic eating and to advise youth on careers in conservation. They'll also bring their free organic lifestyle demos to churches, town halls and farmers markets.
Organic foods are grown without pesticides, growth hormones or chemical fertilizers, which some believe to be cancer-causing and generally bad for your health. These guys are full believers: a few years ago, Chad Cherry went into a diabetic coma and nearly died.
Roosevelt Desir, another Be Organic principal, contracted Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and was given six months to live; Andre Washington was diagnosed with diabetes.
The group of friends who loved to experiment with flavors eventually recovered, giving much of the credit to an organic lifestyle change. Kirk Nelson, the only "clean" member of the group of friends, decided not to wait for his turn to hear bad medical news, and went organic, too.
The men, all in their 20s, have made exceptional strides in a short time toward their goal of becoming the new face of organic food. Though they've cooked at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival and even served President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, they also want to take their message to lower-income communities.
"You don't have to be wealthy to be healthy," Cherry said.
But preparing for this journey hasn't been easy. Getting major sponsors was difficult. Some corporations, when approached, responded that urban communities aren't interested in healthful or organic living.
But others have been passionate supporters. The Costco in Aventura is backing the tour, and Jason May was on hand representing the corporation at the Lyric with a table spread with organic offerings.
LA Fitness in West Palm Beach helped the guys train for the physically grueling tour. Smaller businesses like A1 Scoot Skate and Bike of Miami are enthusiastic boosters. The shop serviced the guys' bikes to get them ready for the road.
Be Organic is still working toward a target funding level necessary for the ambitious trip, but the men are pedaling out on faith, and are hosting fundraisers on the road.
Be Organic stopped at Fort Lauderdale's Sailboat Bend Artist Lofts Wednesday night and Boca Express Train Museum at the FEC Railway Station Thursday. They planned another event at the Urban League of Palm Beach in West Palm Beach for Friday.
Thursday's and Friday's events were free and open to the public, but donations are welcome to help defray costs of the campaign.
"We need rolling donations to keep the events free for the community, to cover costs of food and supplies, to have more impact," Cherry said. "We want to have touched 70,000 people by the end of this tour."
The guests at the Lyric launch had stories as interesting as the hosts'.
Singer Merian Terry, whose rich alto entertained the audience with a rendition of "Opened Up My Heart," is herself a survivor of cervical cancer and an organic vegetarian.
Another guest, Nivia Binett-Carroll, is a holistic health practitioner, and hosts a radio program dedicated to natural health remedies. She was there with her husband Jeff Carroll, a hip-hop dating coach whose organic lifestyle progression ended a life-long love affair with fried chicken.
"I loved it, I would eat it for lunch and dinner and feel good about myself because I hadn't had it for breakfast," Carroll joked.
As he became more aware of its ill effects on his health, Carroll cut back, first to once a week, then to once or twice a month.
"Me and my son celebrate Fried Chicken Day. I still love it, but I know it wasn't good for me to eat it so much."
Daniell "Danni" Washington, founder and CEO of the Big Blue & You Foundation, spoke on behalf of the launch.
Washington's organization teaches children ways to conserve the oceans. Big Blue & You has partnered with Be Organic to provide the educational component of BO's classroom demonstrations. Inner-city kids, she maintained, need to know that they can benefit from conservation, that they can make a career in improving their communities and their daily lives.
"It's important to teach kids, especially urban and black children, to be stewards of the environment and get them excited about saving the planet. We have a stake in the green economy," Washington said.
Be Organic will be stopping every ten miles for breaks, and plan to blog every night about the experience. A crew will follow them to video the odyssey. The guys are putting the pedal to the metal.
But are they nervous about cramped legs, rainy days or bad drivers? Not a chance, they replied.
"Our mental toughness comes from everyone who said this was impossible. This is how you step out on faith," Cherry said.
Editor's Note: Be Organic can be reached on Twitter (organic takeover), Facebook, at email@example.com or by calling 561-305-1376. To contact Big Blue & You Founcation, log onto www.thebigblueandyou.com.
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Be Organic Chef Chad Cherry prepares a meal on Sept. 2 at the historic Lyric Theater in Miami.