Community Interest

Retiree Bicycles Across America to Raise Awareness for Child Abuse

If you are out on the Katy Trail between Sedalia and the East terminus at Machens, MO the week of May 21-26 and see a lone bicyclist heading East,it may be retiree Larry Heyn on his trek across the USA to raise awareness of child abuse.

Heyn explains, “I’ve had a desire to bike across the United States for many years, but it was while watching a talk given by former Utah Supreme Court Justice Dallin H. Oaks called ‘Protect the Children’ that gave me a reason. Oak’s talk, which discusses the many ways children are abused, gave me a purpose to attempt my ride-to raise awareness of child abuse, and extend invitations to those I meet to help stop it.” 

Heyn created a website with his son-in-law, Drew Barber, called shieldthechildren.com, as a repository of all the information Heyn has collected about child abuse. It is divided into two sections, one section for learning, and the other for taking action to stop the abuse or care for those who have been abused.

The “Learn” side lists many forms of child abuse that exist and information about each type. The “ACT” side mirrors the “Learn” side. It contains ways for people to personally become involved in each type of abuse. Many are simple, every day, common sense things that will make a difference. 

“As I’ve compiled the information for this website some basic truths stand out,” explains Heyn. “Much of the abuse comes from repeating what we were exposed to as children, and as such, may not be considered abuse in the mind of the person administering the abuse.” Heyn goes on to say that some abuse occurs because the perpetrator doesn’t know better; for example, how to handle a baby/child that won’t stop crying.” 

“I don’t know if anyone has measured the frequency of child abuse,” said Heyn, “but as I’ve prepared for my trip and spoken to people I’ve encountered thus far on my trip, I’ve everyone, literally everyone knows of someone firsthand who has been abused as a child” 

“Many people bike across the US each year,” says Heyn. “Some do it to raise money for a cause, or charitable organization. My goal is not to raise money, but rather to help people become educated about child abuse, and give them suggestions on how they can help stop it.” 

Heyn believes that “it is by small and simple acts that great things come to pass.” He will be extending personal invitations to those he meets along his route to do something to stop child abuse. He says donating to a specific organization is good, but taking personal action to prevent abuse is better.

“I’m asking people to email me with what action they’ve taken. I’m hoping to compile a long list on my webpage.” 

Heyn is a 67 years old retired medical device engineer. He has been married to his wife, Debi for 32 years and has three children and five grandchildren. Since retiring six years ago, he and his wife have volunteered as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Palmyra, NY, and Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

Heyn's ride began April 7 in San Diego, CA. His route takes him through or near Phoenix, AZ, Tucson, AZ, El Paso, TX, Alamogordo, NM, Santa Rosa, NM, Fort Dodge, KS, Kansas City, MO, St. Louis, MO, Indianapolis, IN, Dayton, OH, Columbus, OH, Union Town, PA, Cumberland, MD, and will conclude in Washington, DC. Heyn will ride six days a week and hopes to average 50 miles each day. He will be supported by his wife Debi, who will be driving his “sag wagon.” He expects his trip will take twelve to fourteen weeks (April through July) to complete, riding every day except Sundays and in very inclement weather; his ride can be followed at  https://www.facebook.com/shieldthechild/



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