TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Bo Jackson's 482-kilometre bike ride across Alabama ended Saturday in Tuscaloosa, with the Heisman Trophy winner having raised more than US$413,000 so far to help victims of last spring's tornado outbreaks.
The ride — dubbed "Bo Bikes Bama" — crossed the finish line in Tuscaloosa around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The ride passed through some of the communities hit hardest by more than 60 twisters that destroyed thousands of homes and businesses and killed about 250 people on April 27, 2011. In Tuscaloosa, more than 50 deaths were blamed on a tornado.
Hundreds joined Jackson for the ride, including celebrities such as Lance Armstrong, former major leaguer Ken Griffey Jr. and NBA star Scottie Pippen. Riders could join Jackson for $200 a day. Each of the five bikes he rode will be auctioned.
Todd Stacy of the Alabama House Speaker's staff said Saturday evening that donations were still coming in for the Governor's Emergency Relief Fund, which was set up to help tornado victims. Jackson had set a goal of raising $1 million.
Jackson told a gathering in Tuscaloosa that he was inspired by the optimism of people he encountered along the ride, people who in many cases had lost a lot.
"We've had fun this week," Jackson said "I've gotten to know people that I would have never gotten to know. And it's things like when you're driving down the road, even though these people have lost a lot, they're out on their front porches. They're out beside the streets and they're waving. And they're happy."
Jackson, who grew up near Birmingham in Bessemer but now lives in Illinois, laughed as he recalled the driver of an 18-wheeler pulling up beside him and saying, "Roll, Bo, roll."
"I almost fell off my bike," Jackson said.