CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University sophomores Keegan Warrington and Tate Koenig are preparing to set out on the biggest adventure of their lives.
This December, they'll be driving across a quarter of the globe in a 1986 Suzuki Samurai - to raise awareness and donations for three Africa-related charities. Meanwhile, back in Corvallis, fellow OSU sophomore Zach Lowry will keep track of their progress and blog about their adventures to keep fans and potential donors apprised of their trip.
The three make up the members of Team COW, the only student team in this year's Africa Rally, a charity-based competition that begins Dec. 13 in London, England.
The event has only a few simple rules. Competitors must use vehicles with engines smaller than 1.2 liters, and must end up in Cameroon. Teams receive no support and have no designated route. There are currently 87 teams registered, of which only four are from the United States.
"We're using the Africa Rally to jumpstart our fundraising," said Warrington, "and to raise awareness about the three African charities we're supporting."
The charities are The Rain Forest Foundation, Ape Action Africa and Send a Cow.
The three students have created their own philanthropic organization, COW (Citizen of the World) because they believe that students should think of themselves in the context of the world, not just as people who have an impact on their local community.
Warrington said he was inspired in part by a backpacking trip he took through Asia, adding that classes he took at Oregon State - including a political philosophy class - got him thinking about his moral obligation to help those in need. He still uses quotes he learned in the class when he talks about COW to potential donors.
Koenig said taking an accounting class has helped him plunge into the world of philanthropy. "That's helped me with the whole aspect of running a business," he said.
The team has also relied on advice and support from OSU faculty and other students as they began planning for their African adventure.
In preparation for the trip, the donated Suzuki had to go through a bit of a mechanical overhaul. Any additional problems that may come up on the long trip across the western side of Africa will be taken care of by Koenig, who grew up working on vehicles. They're taking as many spare parts as they can, but are limited by weight.
They've also been gathering donations and sponsors, and hope that additional media coverage and blog fans will bring in more money along the way.
The sophomores know they're preparing for a trip that will take them through remote locations, far from friends, phones and tow trucks.
"The scariest part is knowing that we could do everything completely right, and if we're in the wrong spot at the wrong time, it's game over," Warrington said.
But enthusiasm for the challenge far outweighs any trepidation they might hold.
"We will make it no matter what it takes, even if we have to ride camels, we will make it," Koenig said.
"It's actually happening," Warrington said. "We're pulling it together and getting so much support."
To learn more about Team COW and to make a donation, or buy a T-shirt or sweatshirt, go to www.beacow.com. The student blog will appear on the Web site once the race begins.
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Keegan Warrington, 503-729-6315