What does it mean to be part of a family? To me, it means that there is someone who is always on my side. Someone I can call when I am in trouble and someone who is cheering for me when I am at my best. With family, I will always know that there are people out there who love me. People who will do everything they can to lift me up, keep me safe, fill my heart, and give me the strength to move forward.

My son Ethan and I, along with friend George Marget and his son Geordy are participating in a bike ride across Iowa called “Ragbrai.” From July 21 through July 27 we will be covering 406 miles! Along with about 10,000 other people from around the globe, we will be riding between 4 and 7 hours per day.

This past Father’s Day as I was thinking about how grateful I am to be a part of a great family and about how lucky I am to be taking this trip with my son I decided that we should use this ride to do something to try to give something back. To contribute to a “promise, restored” future of youth facing life’s challenges without the support of a permanent family. So Ragbrai will be our personal celebration of the gift of family and a fund raiser to do a little something for those who are trying to make it without one.

The money we raise will help LFSVA set up a new scholarship fund to support sending youth in foster care to college. According to one study, by age 24, only 6% of youths in foster care complete a 2- or 4-year college degree — only one fifth as many as their peers. And these low numbers are not without cause.

While there are many grants and programs available to cover college tuition and fees for youth raised in foster care, these grants generally do not help these students cover their daily living expenses while in school. 100% of the funds we raise from our ride will provide this assistance to college students who are or have been in foster care.

George and I are getting the drive started by donating $1.00 for every mile we cover and you can help as well. Make sure to visit our donation page to make your gift per mile, email this link to your friends and family, and follow our Twitter updates throughout our trip!

Ray Ratke is vice president of programs, marathon runner, piano player, VCU basketball fan, dedicated to the people we serve, and seeker of the best ways to serve them.