Couple rolls across country for the poor

CHARLESTON—Carolyn and Santi Ocâriz are giving new meaning to cross-country skiing.

The Wisconsin couple, both semiprofessionals in the sport, are raising money for Food for the Poor by skiing from Charleston to San Francisco — roughly 3,000 miles.

Carolyn explained that they are using specially designed roller skis for the journey; the same type they train with during the off-season. It’s a little bumpier than snow, but she said they’re used to it.

The pair, who was on the Olympic development team last year and race on the national circuit, wanted to use their professional passion to help others, Carolyn said.

“We were really inspired by a friend who ran across the United States and raised $90,000 for Living Water,” she said. “We wanted to do something like that to help others.”

They came across a Food for the Poor box in church and did some research. Carolyn said she  was impressed by the charity’s mission and their efficiency — more than 96 percent goes  directly to the poor.

A plan was crystallizing. They decided to start in Charleston, arriving March 4 to balmy temperatures. It was quite a difference from Wisconsin, which was coated by snow the day they left.

Carolyn said they’ll stop at churches and possibly schools along the way to spread the word about their cause. They have spoken to pastors at many churches already, and so far have been welcomed each time with hospitality and generosity. One place they visited was St.  Anthony Church in Walterboro, where they were given food and shelter for the night.

Father Jeffrey A. Kendall, pastor, said they had a wonderful visit and praised the young Catholics as two extraordinary people. Santi is a cradle Catholic, and Carolyn a convert,
he said.

“It’s crazy, but also brilliant,” Father Kendall said of their journey. “It’s like a modern form of  mission work … where they do the ancient practice of a journey and bring attention to the needs of the poor. It really is an act of faith in many ways.”

Santi said they expect the endeavor to take about 80 days. Originally, they had factored for about 3,000 miles, but he said they’ve already altered the course, taking less-traveled side roads and forest paths when they can. He said it will add miles, but is more scenic and less  dangerous.

The way it works, one person roller skis while the other drives the car and stops at churches  along the way, handing out the mission brochure and asking the pastor to share it with his  congregation. When roadways are too narrow and congested, Santi said they shed the skis and run instead.

“We prefer to ski, but one of us is always covering the miles,” he explained. Traffic is a big concern, but he said it’s been a positive experience so far.

“We’ve been better received on the roads here than up North,” he said with a laugh. “They’ll  drive by and put up their thumbs. They probably have no idea what we’re doing, but they seem to like it!”

Visit to read about their daily journey.