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The word swag has a variety of meanings, depending on who is asked and what part of the country the person lives in. But the word SWAG means just one thing to Bruce Hahn and his wife, Patty -- love.
SWAG stands for Students With A Goal, an after school program based in southwest Akron's Summit Lake area. The program was created to help mentor students and help cultivate their potential for learning, leadership, life and loving relationships.
Bruce and Patty, of Hudson, have been mentors with the inner-city program for about three years. The couple have three children Emily, Morgan and Trevor.
Bruce, 62, will combine two passions, biking and the students of SWAG June 11 when he embarks on a 3,500-mile cross country bicycle ride to help raise funds for the program.
Bruce is hoping to raise about $5,000 with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward the program.
Bruce will take off from Portland, Oregon and ride to Bar Harbor Maine in about eight weeks or so. Bruce hopes to arrive in Maine the first week of August, he said.
"The kids are all into it," Bruce said of his friends at SWAG. "The younger boys all want to go with me but I told them 'it's a lot of pedaling.'"
Bruce has wanted to take a bike trip across the country for about 41 years, he said.
"I went off to college, took a couple of bike trips. Jobs, graduate school, marriage, career and children came along," Bruce said. "The thought of riding cross country took an out of reach back seat. Now 35 years after my last significant bike trip, I am still married to my wonderful and understanding wife, Patty, still working for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., the kids are almost out of college and now I have the opportunity to make a coast to coast bike ride while I still think my knees will hold out."
Bruce decided to raise funds for SWAG while he prepared for the ride, as well as along the way.
The longest Bruce has ridden is 1,200 miles, he said.
Bruce is training by riding his bike to and from his Hudson home, to the lab he works at in east Akron.
Bruce and Patty have been involved with the group for about three years. The couple, who donates one evening a week to the students, learned about the program through a friend at First Congregational Church.
Students meet at the Summit Lake Community Center for about an hour of recreation and tutoring and then go to the Miller Avenue United Church of Christ for dinner and more programs until about 8 p.m. The students range from seventh-graders to high school students.
"It's a really good group," Bruce said. "The main goal is to get the kids through high school."
The program just celebrated its first two graduates. One graduate will attend Stark Tech to learn how to become a lineman, Bruce said.
"That's a big jump from where he is now," Bruce said.
It took a while for the students to learn to trust Bruce and Patty, but now they accept the couple with open arms.
And while Patty said she will miss Bruce while on his journey, she plans to meet him in Yellowstone National Park in a few weeks.
"It's really cool that he is doing this," Patty said. "But I am going to miss him."
According to Patty, the first two weeks of the trip will be some of roughest with mountains and a variety of obstacles, which may include a bear or two.
"I'm a little concerned, but with modern cell phones I'll hopefully be able to communicate with him most of the time," Patty said.
And while Patty and the family love the idea of Bruce helping the students, not everyone is as supportive due to the distance and terrain.
"It's interesting. When we tell people he is doing this they either think he's crazy or it's really cool," Patty said. "There is no middle ground."
Patty has helped students with a variety of needs as a mentor including driver's tests, finding out their credit score and learning algebra, she said.
"I'm impassioned by it," Patty said of SWAG. "It's a wonderful cause and they can always use a little extra money."
Bruce's efforts are refreshing to the students as well as Patty.
"With the stuff these kids see every day it's refreshing to see someone trying help them," Patty said."The fact that these kids come every day after school -- they don't get in as much trouble and they stay with it."
Patty said she likes the sense of family the students show toward each other.
"One of the nicest parts of the program is that while they are there, the kids are all part of the SWAG family," Patty said. "They are with other kids their age that have smilier goals and are trying to do certain things so while they are there, they are part of the SWAG family. And they do tend to look out for each other."
For additional information on the program visit studentswithagoal.com. To find out more about the ride visit www.hahnsbucketride.com.
For additional information on donating call Patty at 330-256-6086 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.