When Luke Mysse suggested to his wife, Dalia, they close up his Old Towne office, pack up the house and she and their two kids follow him in an RV as he rode his bike across country to support his campaign StopSAM (Severe Acute Malnutrition), he expected her to dismiss the idea as crazy.
“Luke was surprised that I said yes, but the truth is, I’d been wondering for some time how I might contribute,” says Dalia. “I’m really happy that we’re involved with such a great cause. StopSAM has become a passion for us as a family. My 9-year-old son Andrew has already raised $200 toward the cause by making and selling rubber band bracelets.”
The couple plan to head out this spring with Andrew and his five-year-old brother Ayden for a three-month, 4,700-mile trip up the California coast from San Diego to Oregon and across to New York. On the way back, Mysse plans on riding in the RV with his family, stopping along the way for speaking engagements about StopSAM.
A designer and branding professional for 19 years, Mysse teamed up with his friend Mike Levison in 2013 to form the nonprofit organization after hearing about an affordable way of stopping SAM—an often fatal condition that affects as many as 20 million children worldwide. With just one round of a nutrient-rich food known as RUTF (Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food) that contains milk, peanut butter and micronutrients, a child can be spared a death from malnutrition.
Mysse’s mission is to distribute as many RUTF as possible to organizations like World Vision and UNICEF that can deliver the life-saving packets to children in countries such as Africa and south Asia where the rate of SAM is especially high. Each lifesaving treatment costs $50.
“The good news is that RUTF works,” says Mysse. “Most children who go on the therapeutic treatment don’t have to repeat it. It gives their bodies a jumpstart and enables them to sustain themselves on whatever food is available.”
The seeds for Mysse’s journey to StopSAM were planted six years ago. “Though I was doing well in my career, I worked long hours and I had sacrificed my health (he weighed more than 300 pounds) for something I realized I didn’t really care about,” he says.
Worried about his health, Mysse began cycling and dropped 135 pounds. In 2012, he heard about a group of medical students that ride across America for world health issues, so he rode with them for four days. “At the time, the crazy idea of traveling across country popped into my head, but I pushed it down,” he says.
Mysse had planned to juggle his career and StopSAM, but the idea to devote his time to riding across country dogged him.
“The noise in my head became so loud that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I knew that if my child was starving, I would want someone to do something about it,” says Mysse, who in 10 years hopes to save 1 million children from SAM. “Many people feel overwhelmed by the problems in the world and feel like they can’t make a difference, but with StopSAM they can.”
In addition to his trek across the U.S., Mysse holds various fundraising campaigns for the cause, including PBJ For Good. The 2013 event involved the sale of peanut butter and jelly sandwich interpretations of 15 Orange County chefs, including Greg Daniels, Executive Chef/Partner at Haven Collective, who has known Mysse since 2009.
“We’re completely supportive of Luke’s charitable efforts,” says Daniels. “Luke is selfless in that he has put the well-being of children around the world before himself. I don’t know many people who would give up the business they started, pack up their family and go trekking across the country without knowing what happens when the trip is finished. It takes guts to make a move like that, and Luke is making it happen without looking back.”
On Monday, March 10th at 6:30 pm, Provisions Market will host a kickoff to the Mysse family’s cross-country journey. Come out and meet the family and show your support; You can also follow the Mysse’s adventure on their blog at CycleCause.com.
You can also follow the Mysse’s adventure on their blog at CycleCause.com.
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