Check in with Tom as he rides his bike across the country!
Tom Swanson is taking the ride of his life.
On Saturday, May 30, Swanson left his Port Angeles, WA address behind and began biking the 3,400 miles to Panama, NY.
The focus of the ride is to raise awareness of the increasing costs of a college education and Swanson’s commitment to supporting education. “I decided to symbolize that commitment by starting at Hamilton Elementary in Port Angeles, where my kids went to school, and ending at Panama High School, where I graduated in 1975,” Swanson said.
Growing up in Ashville, Swanson spent many summers riding his bike up and down Gleason Road, and swimming at Lakewood Beach. During those years, his parents, Lowell and Delores (Rusnow), instilled in Swanson, and his two sisters, Pamela and Penny, how important it was for them to get a quality education.
As Swanson and his sisters entered high school, they worked during the summers to save money for college and applied to as many scholarships as they could. Today, Swanson understands that with the ever- increasing costs of colleges and universities, earnings from summer jobs cannot cover tuition, books, room and board.
According to Swanson, his father was fond of the saying, “an education is something that can never be taken from you.” Even though, Lowell never completed high school, he understood the importance of higher education.
When Lowell passed away unexpectedly at the age of 61; Swanson and his family created a scholarship fund in his memory at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. Since 1993, The Lowell L. Swanson Scholarship Fund has provided the necessary financial support to students furthering their education.
One of the many Community Foundation scholarship recipients, who benefited from The Lowell Swanson Scholarship Fund, is Kaitlin Ames.
Ames, a native of Falconer, is returning to the Chautauqua Region in July to begin her career as a family physician with Family Health Medical Services in Jamestown.
“Having lived in many different places, including a larger city, it was important for me to come home,” she said.
“I had an interest in medicine going back to a high school shadowing experience. Throughout my training in medical school, I realized my desire to provide primary care to a wide range of ages,” Ames said.
After graduating from Panama High School, Swanson attended the University of Washington and earned a degree in forestry and earned his MBA from the University of Oregon. Today, he is area manager for Green Crow Corporation in Port Angeles, WA.
“My father…wanted (my sisters and I) to pursue education as a means toward the achievement of a meaningful career and comfortable lifestyle,” Swanson wrote in a letter detailing his journey.
“I have vivid and fond memories of my years in school, first in Ashville Elementary and then at Panama High School,” he said. “I took the values of outdoor living, caring for animals and support for education with me to Washington and I couldn’t be more thankful for the experiences I had growing up in Chautauqua County.”
Swanson hopes to arrive in Panama, the week of July 20.