Riding Across the Heart of North Carolina

May 16, 2013 • United States

An 8-year-old from Winston-Salem, N.C, is riding his bike more than 360 miles to raise money for Children’s Heart Project

Eight-year-old C.J. Burford doesn’t dream small. At 5 years old, he heard a song on the radio about doing everything for the glory of God.

“We were riding down the road in the minivan, and he said, ‘Hey Mom, does that mean I’m supposed to ride my bike for Jesus?’” said Katie Burford, C.J.’s mother.

His mother told him that he was strong and healthy, so of course he should ride for Jesus. She didn’t know that C.J. would soon begin riding his bike to raise money for people in need.

CJ's Ride - Team SPHe started with a small goal. When Kenyan missionaries spoke to his Sunday school class, he found out that they often ride their bikes for 30 or more miles to accomplish everyday tasks. He decided he wanted to ride his bike 30 miles across Forsyth County, where he lives, to raise money for the missionaries.

“At the time, I was only 5,” C.J. said. “I could barely ride my bike across the driveway because I didn’t have that much practice.”

When he announced his plans, his parents initially tried to discourage him because he was so young. He wouldn’t relent, so they took him to a bike shop to find out if his goal was even possible for someone his age. The shop owners tried to discourage him as well, but after C.J. continued to persist they agreed to help him design a safe ride across the county.

“He really feels like this is what God wants him to do,” Katie said. “It’s been difficult to make it happen because somebody has to ride with him everywhere, but it’s been worth it for sure.”

After C.J. rode across the county in four hours, including a break to speak at a local radio station, he was ready to accomplish his next goal. He decided to ride from Winston-Salem to Charlotte to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House. The ride was more difficult, but he was still able to accomplish his goal. He was ready to move on to bigger things.

CJ's Ride - Team SPLast year, C.J. decided to get involved with Samaritan’s Purse. He wanted to ride 315 miles down the coast of North Carolina to raise money for clean water projects. After several days of riding, he made it to the South Carolina border. The accomplishment gave him more confidence. He began plotting his next ride.

“He gets on YouTube or on the Internet and searches different charities and watches their videos,” Katie said. “He prays about it, and he decides what he wants to ride for.”

This time, C.J. stumbled onto the Children’s Heart Project portion of the Samaritan’s Purse website. The project brings children with heart problems from developing countries to North America for surgery. He was immediately drawn to the children in the videos who had no hope of life without heart surgery.

“If I had a heart defect, and I live in America, they’d just fix it like that and insurance would cover it,” he said. “Our family would be fine. But [these children] have to live with it. If Samaritan’s Purse didn’t fix it, they would only have a couple of years left in their life.”

With that in mind, C.J. decided to ride more than 360 miles from the Tennessee border to the coast of North Carolina. He and his mother planned a 15-day trip, and he set a goal to raise $8,800 to bring four children to North America for life-saving heart surgery.

“Since I was riding for Children’s Heart Project, I wanted to ride across the heart of North Carolina,” he said.

CJ's Ride - Team SPC.J. will ride every portion of the route, including steep uphill sections in the mountains and long, hot stretches of flat road toward the coast. He will end at Emerald Isle after stops along the way at several churches and at Samaritan’s Purse headquarters.

“I’m going to absolutely dip my front wheel in the ocean in the Outerbanks,” he said.

He began his third day of riding on Wednesday, May 15, at Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone. When he left, a large group of employees gathered outside to watch him spin off.