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Charity begins on the road

Newport Beach resident Brad Larkins is giving back to the American Lung Association what was given to him more than 10 years ago.

By Natalie Venegas, Daily Pilot


Larkins, who kicked his smoking habit with the help of an American Lung Association program, will take part in a benefit bicycle ride that will cover 12 states in 38 days.

Larkins, who is 47, is the only Southern California rider and has raised more than $9,000 in donations from friends and family.

Currently, the total amount raised by the 34 riders is estimated at $250,000.

"What was fascinating to me was the amazing generosity," Larkins said. "I'm still blown away."

Today at 6 a.m., the cyclists will begin their ride from Seattle, Wash. to Washington D.C.

The cross-country journey will include nearly 100,000 feet of elevation climbing, with an average of 82 miles a day and eight full days of rest.

Two back-to-back days will cover more than 100 miles.

The group will be followed by a truck carrying the cyclists' possessions and meals will be provided.

The volunteers will begin each day at 6 a.m. and will ride at their own pace, with stops approximately every 25 miles.

At night, the riders will camp at high schools and universities.

"It's going to be a tough physical event," Larkins said. "But I'm pretty head-strong. I think that will be helpful to the group because I'll take my ongoing positive attitude and let it out, even when it's not a very positive situation."

Three years ago, Larkins, a father of four, a Southern California Edison information technologist and an avid cyclist and volunteer, was in search of a cross-country bike ride. It's a dream he always had.

After browsing the internet, he discovered the annual bike ride, and immediately began planning.

"I am very exited about the ride," he said. "It's an adventure, it's a challenge and it's a great organization to benefit."

In preparation, Larkins, who began cycling while attending UC Santa Barbara, took part in the annual Solvang Century, a 100-mile ride some 4,000 riders.

On Saturdays and Sundays, he rides 65 miles to Long Beach or Encinitas.

"I think it will be challenging," he said. "There will be times I'll feel tired and worn out, but I'll just have to push through that and keep going. I'll be thinking of those who contributed because I know they want to see me succeed."

Following Larkins will be his wife and four children, who recently bought an RV for the trip.

The days the riders have off were planned around major cities, such as Missoula, Mont., Rapid City, S.D. and Gettysburg, Pa., so that Larkins and his family can spend time together.

His parents and sister plan to fly to Washington D.C. to meet him at the end of the ride.

"I'm so exited," his wife Christine said. "This is a dream he has had his whole life. We are so proud of him, and we're exited to see the United States."

Two years ago, Larkins was named a Halo Hero, as part of a program acknowledging Edison employees who provide volunteer service in the community.

For the past five years, Larkins has been a volunteer docent with the Nature Conservancy. In that role, he leads tours into preserved areas twice a month.

He is also on the Share Mountain Bike board, a trail building and mountain bike club that works on trails in and around Orange County.

"It's a great group of people," he said. "It's amazing the amount of work they get done around here."

Despite his hectic schedule, Larkins also finds time to surf with his son and go camping with his family.

"It's always juggling, but you just do it," he said.

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