As the sun set on their first day, the men of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps were cold, tired, and soaking wet. And they still had nearly 1,900 miles to go.

It was summer 1896. The 20 members of the 25th Infantry, an all-black company out of Fort Missoula, Montana, had been volunteered by their white commanding officer, 2nd Lt. James Moss, to study the feasibility of using bicycles in the military, which, unlike horses, required no food, water, or rest.

Moss was allowed to lead his men on a near-2,000-mile journey from Missoula to St. Louis, Missouri. The weather was punishing, the ride grueling, and the water poisonous. The men of the 25th were selected for the experiment, frankly, because as soldiers, they were worth little to the U.S. military.


Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

But odds are you haven't heard of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps. Their story was quickly forgotten, barely earning a mention in the pages of history books.

But in reality, these men were unsung heroes. Don't believe me? Here are nine reasons why.

1. Before the journey, many of the men didn't even know how to ride a bike.

Only five of the 20 soldiers were experienced bicycle riders ahead of the cross-country trek. One learned how to ride just a week prior. At the time, safety bicycles (the new model with two wheels of the same size as opposed to the large wheel on the front) were relatively new and exciting.

Photo of Pvt. John Findley, one of the few men in the company with any cycling experience. Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

2. The bicycles selected for the journey were on loan and extremely clunky.

The Spalding company donated bicycles for the experiment. The bikes had steel rims and no gears (those hadn't been invented yet). Each bicycle weighed in at 59 pounds, without gear. A heavy one-speed bike is just fine on a breezy ride through the country. But these men were traveling over mountains.

Are your legs tired yet?


Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

3. You know when your grandparents say they had to walk uphill both ways? This was the journey for the 25th. Only true.

The route to St. Louis was selected because the men would encounter diverse terrain — perfect for a test of military feasibility. The company traveled from the steep slopes of Montana through the dry, sandy roads of Nebraska. They encountered snow, rocks, mud, and punishing winds. They even crossed the rivers on foot, multiple times, holding their bikes over their heads.

"We were wet, cold and hungry, and a more jaded set of men never existed," wrote Edward Boos, a correspondent for the Daily Missoulian and an avid bicyclist who traveled with the 25th to report on their experiences.

Why didn't they just ride on the road? Good question.


The 25th riding past Old Faithful at Yellowstone. Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

4. The roads were so bad, the men often resorted to riding on train tracks.

The roads that existed at the time were worn down from wagon wheels creating deep rutted paths. And when it rained, they were washed away, replaced with thick mud. Instead, at times the men rode their bikes on the train tracks, which weren't much better considering there was nothing between the railroad ties but deep holes. The men held tight to their handlebars to keep from flipping over, resulting in hand numbness and intense shoulder pain for miles.

And you thought you were sore after a 50-minute spin class.

Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

5. Each soldier carried 55 pounds of gear on his bike.

Their supplies included half a tent, a bedroll, a pair of underwear, an undershirt, socks a toothbrush, two days worth of food (burnt bread, beans, bacon or canned beef, and coffee), various tools, and a rifle. Every 100 miles or so, the men would stop at posts to refill their supplies.

The supplies were kept in white rolls on the handlebars and in small custom leather or metal pouches attached to the bicycle frame. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

6. They barely got any rest, and at times when they did, it was amid cacti.

The men rode 35 full days of the 41-day journey. Considering the terrain, there weren't many good places to stop and rest. They often made camp in fields of prickly pear cactus, though few men reported being poked.

Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

7. And, oh yeah, the water was poisonous.

Because a 2,000-mile journey on a one-speed bike isn't tricky enough, once the soldiers got to Nebraska, they were drinking from water that had dangerously high levels of alkali and even cholera.

Vapors from the dusty terrain made the men sick, too. 2nd Lt. Moss even began to hallucinate.


Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

8. Because they were black, the 25th were often considered second-rate soldiers, but they were anything but.

The 25th Infantry were one of four all-black infantry regiments created by Congress after the Civil War. The army moved the unit out west to help tame the wild frontier, where they picked up the name "Buffalo Soldiers" from the Cheyenne.

The men were given slow horses, rotten food, and shoddy gear for the task. Despite the miserable treatment and conditions, though, black companies had some of the lowest desertion rates of regiments out west. And between 1870 and 1898, 23 black soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

9. But when they reached St. Louis, the men received a warm welcome from the city's people.

2nd Lt. Moss and the 25th were escorted to a hotel just outside of town by a local bicycle club. Later, they performed maneuvers in a St. Louis parade, where 10,000 people came to cheer for them. Sadly, not a single military officer was there to greet them.


Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

The men had done it — traveling 1,900 miles in 41 days across some of the country's most punishing terrain. Moss wanted to continue the trip and travel to St. Paul, Minnesota. But he was told to return the bikes and send his men back to Montana on the train.

Despite a successful journey, the experiment was over.

The story of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps is one of those unique, surprising moments in U.S. history.

After the journey Boos wrote, "This hard work was too much. It could not prove anything about a bicycle and was merely a test of physical endurance of which we had quite sufficient."

120 years later, this story is about so much more than a bicycle. It's about adventure, guts, and mental and physical fortitude. Other than the all-black cast, it has all the makings of a big-budget Hollywood movie. (I kid, I kid.)

Image via The Montana Experience: Stories from Big Sky Country/YouTube.

Learn more about the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps from historians and their descendants in this documentary.


Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

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4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

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AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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