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US cyclists spread cheer through charity tour

TAIPEI -- They wore helmets and bike shorts instead of red caps and robes, but that did not stop 16 cyclists from Taiwan, China and the United States from spreading holiday cheer across Taiwan despite wet, chilly Christmas weather.

Made up mostly of students from U.S. universities, the group set out from Taichung City Hall Wednesday accompanied by upwards of 100 enthusiastic bikers — including disadvantaged school children — who followed them all the way to the city's Wuri District.

That is by no means the last stop for the 16 riders, led by computer science Professor Dejang Liu of the College of DuPage in Illinois, as they endeavored to loop around the island on their “2013 Love and Hope in Taiwan” fundraising tour.

They're aiming to raise US$650,000 to sponsor tuition and other fees for children in need while also engaging them in fun holiday activities.

Setting out from the northern capital Taipei on Dec. 21 amid rain and low temperatures, the cyclists arrived in the central city of Taichung on Christmas Eve to take young students there Christmas caroling.

Their next major stop will be visiting children in remote areas ofthe southern county of Pingtung Dec. 27 before heading to Hualien in the east on Dec. 31 for a charity auction, according to Jim Chen, secretary-general of the Taichung Association of Women and Children, which helped organize the ride.

The students have been tutoring the Pingtung children online, and Friday's visit will be an opportunity for them finally to meet face to face, Chen said.

Speaking on behalf of the riders, Ginger Lai, a Taiwanese medical student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the group would “put (their) best efforts into academic tutoring for the disadvantaged children.”

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 TAIEX to outvie world markets five sessions short of 2014 
Fourteen university students from the United States hold posters bearing a slogan emphasizing love in Taiwan while posing for a picture in Taichung City yesterday. They choose Christmas as the day on which they departed on a bicycle tour around Taiwan. They hope that their tour will encourage more people to care about children from disadvantaged families. (CNA)

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