Teen stops in Columbia on cross-continent journey for American Heart Association

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 | 7:24 p.m. CDT; updated 4:59 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 14, 2011
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Alli Koch is biking 2,200 miles to raise money for the American Heart Association. Here is her route.

COLUMBIA — The Fays don't usually have strangers stay the night. But if you're in the process of biking 2,200 miles, they might make an exception.

Carol Fay and her family welcomed Allison Koch and her father, Dave Koch, into their home Wednesday afternoon after the 18-year-old Koch brushed cicadas off her face and completed another 100-mile leg of her ride to raise awareness for heart disease.

Allison Koch is biking from International Falls, Minn., to Brownsville, Texas, in an effort to raise money for the American Heart Association.

The newly acquainted group sat around the Fays' coffee table, with Allison and Dave Koch still dressed from the road.

"Heart disease is the No. 1 killer," Allison Koch said.

Allison has raised more than $3,000 so far and hopes to raise an additional $7,000 before reaching the Mexican border.

Allison Koch started competing in triathlons in seventh grade and plans to join the triathlon club at the University of Georgia when she begins classes in August.

Allison Koch said she's been thinking about how to incorporate athletics and health awareness into one cause, but eventually decided on a grueling bike ride, to show how much one person can do.

"Right through the HEART-land," Carol Fay said.

"Ninety-five percent of the donations come from the website, Powered by the Heart," Dave Koch said.

Allison Koch has biked up and down state highways and back roads since Memorial Day, making her way south while her father drives a support car behind her.

"Everyone's been really generous," Allison Koch said.

One night, during a storm in Hinckley, Minn., the local Days Inn allowed the Kochs to stay the night free of charge.

"We're trying to save as much money as we can so that more of it goes towards the goal," Dave Koch said.

That's why people such as the Fays are important during the Kochs' journey.

"My husband was asked about two weeks ago at an American Heart Association meeting if we would host them when they came through, and he just said, 'Oh, sure,'" Carol Fay said.

Carol Fay's husband, Bill Fay, is the chief of cardiology at MU.

"Allison's doing a great thing," Bill Fay said. "If we can help in any way, I'm happy to do it."

"It's a little awkward to have a complete stranger come to your house," Carol Fay said, "but I trust that organization very much because we've worked with them."

Carol Fay's father died at age 52 and Bill Fay's at 62, both from heart disease, so the Fays contribute to the American Heart Association and regularly volunteer their time.

"If someone asks you what you're going to die from, people say cancer," Carol Fay said, "but really it's most likely heart disease."

Allison Koch will continue her ride to raise awareness early tomorrow morning, eventually aiming to arrive at the border on June 25.

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