Bloomington teen’s Appalachian Trail trek to aid children in Congo

Morgan Scherer using trip to spur donations to Giving Back to Africa

By Dann Denny 331-4350
May 20, 2013
From the Herald Times Newspaper

Morgan Scherer, a junior at Bloomington High School North, plans to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail this summer to raise funds for Giving Back to Africa. Courtesy photo

Other than doing some leisurely strolling on grassy fairways as a member of the Bloomington High School North golf team, Morgan Scherer has not done any training for his six-week, 500-mile hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail this summer.

“I expect the mountains to kick my butt,” said the high school junior, referring to his journey that will begin June 15 in southwestern Vermont and conclude July 31 in northern Maine. “But by the end of my trip, I should be in pretty good shape.”

Scherer said during his entire trek, a fundraiser for a nonprofit called Giving Back to Africa, he will be accompanied by his 1-year-old dog, Niko — who will be outfitted with his own backpack filled with food and doggie treats. Family and friends will join Scherer for some segments of his trip.

He plans to wear gym shorts, light clothes and Patagonia boots during the day; and sweat pants, wool socks and a down jacket at night. If it storms, he will slip on a rain jacket and rain pants.

Scherer will buy two to five days of food at a time — cramming into his backpack things like pita bread, bagels, peanut butter, granola bars and dried fruit bars for lunch; and pasta and dehydrated meals for dinner.

He figures the entire expedition will cost about $1,000, which he will finance with money he’s earned as the caretaker of a 99-year-old woman.

“I’ll sleep most nights in shelters that are situated about every five miles, but if a shelter is crowded, I’ll spend the night outside in a tent,” he said. “Some nights, I’ll go into town and sleep in a hotel or hostel, and I hope to spend a few nights in what are called ‘huts,’ where they cook you breakfast and dinner. That would be high living. The huts charge you $100, but I’m hoping they let me stay there for free once I tell them I’m doing a fundraiser.”

Giving Back to Africa

Last year Scherer’s sister, who knew Morgan wanted to do some kind of nonprofit work, suggested he attend a meeting of the Giving Back to Africa Student Association at Indiana University.

“I went to the meeting and had a great time,” he said. “It was me and 20 cute college girls.”

But when he heard Anne Marie Thompson speak about Giving Back to Africa — a Bloomington-based nonprofit she cofounded that engages youth in the Democratic Republic of Congo in solving the major problems of their country — he knew he wanted to help.

“It’s awesome to see what they’re doing with youth in the Congo,” he said.

The money Scherer raises through his excursion will help support the Centre Salisa school and orphanage in the Congo. The school, founded in 2002, has nearly 250 students in grades 1-11, but the Giving Back to Africa program works with 70 students in grades 5-8.

The school teaches a standard curriculum of language, science and math along with some vocational skills, such as sewing. Teachers work Giving Back to Africa into the curriculum. The program trains students to target major community development problems — such as water use, hygienic hand washing, and waste management to prevent disease.

“I like knowing where the money is going and how it’s being used,” he said. “I have photos of the schoolkids on my wall at home. Some day, I hope to go the school myself and meet those kids.”

Those wishing to follow Scherer’s trip and support it financially can do so on his website — So far, he has received $340 in donations and pledges, totalling $6.68 per mile.

North’s Interact Club

Morgan Scherer is no stranger to service. As vice president of the Bloomington High School North Interact Club formed this school year, he has helped clean Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, do trail maintenance at Lake Lemon, and raise money for school-aged victims of Superstorm Sandy. The club’s mission is to participate in fun yet meaningful service projects.