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July 6, 2013

UNA student plans to ride unicycle across Alabama

— FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — Many people have bicycled across Alabama to bring attention to various causes. But now University of North Alabama student Lauren Schifano is planning to do it on a unicycle to focus attention on the problems of childhood obesity.

The university announced that Schifano will begin her 400-mile journey Aug. 1 in Florence. She plans to pass through Huntsville, Birmingham and Montgomery before ending up in Gulf Shores no later than Aug. 20.

"The only thing I'm a little concerned about is road safety," she said. "Alabama is not exactly known for bicycle friendliness or sharing the road."

She will be traveling with a driver transporting food and supplies and with friend Wieland Claes, who will bicycle alongside her for support.

Schifano, 25, already has two degrees from UNA in history and German and is working on another degree in health science. She said working on her third degree has made her more conscientious about health "and helping people to be able to keep themselves healthy."

Schifano said she has been practicing by riding 20 to 25 miles per day. She hopes to cover about 40 miles a day, with stops to educate the public. Money she raises will go to Louie's Kids, which is a South Carolina-based nonprofit organization that combats childhood obesity.

Louie Yushaz, founder of Louie's Kids, said, "Lauren's effort is more than awareness, more than fundraising — it's quite simply bravery, and it's what more of our kids need to see on their behalf."

Schifano said she's still trying to decide what to do when she arrives in Gulf Shores. "Maybe a celebration of some kind, probably a lot of rest," she said.

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