Batter Up! First Iowa Volunteer: Roger Netsch

"Roger's Ride"

“Roger’s Ride”

Whenever anyone asks me where I’m from and I tell them Iowa, they give me a blank stare and have no idea what I’m talking about. I have to clarify that it’s in the MIDDLE of the United States and besides corn, we don’t have much going for us (but then I DO mention that corn from Iowa is typically found in Cokes sold around the world-ha!)

But, something that’s even more impressive than high fructose corn syrup, is how much this one little state does for Mary’s Meals. Did you know that the state of Iowa has built 21 kitchens in Malawi and fed 11,659 children for an entire year? Even more impressive, is that all of this was accomplished in only three years time!

In other words, Iowa, or more specifically Iowans, sure pack a punch and although we may not have the size, we sure have the heart. The next few posts are dedicated to those volunteers from my home state who go without being recognized, but have done so much for Mary’s Meals.

Although I am only highlighting Iowans, and a VERY, VERY, select few Iowans at that, here’s to EVERY person that has ever helped Mary’s Meals along their journey to become the organization that they are today; feeding almost 800,000 children every school day!

Roger Netsch

"Get on your bike and ride!"

“Get on your bike and ride!”

A teacher from Indianola High School in Indianola, Iowa had planned on doing a cross-country bike ride with his “biker buddies” for years. When the time came to finally “get on his bike and ride” he decided that simply riding from San Diego, California to Orlando, Florida wasn’t impressive enough; he wanted to do so with a purpose.

With this in mind, Roger set off with a goal: raise enough money to feed 1,163 Mary’s Meals children; one for every student at Indianola High School at the time. This was a huge feat, as it equated to almost $13,000!

The time frame for Roger to meet his goal was only forty-two days.

While Roger traveled with his caravan to his starting point in San Diego, back at home, his supporters were hard at work. T-shirts were produced and sold (each one feeding a child and featuring an AWESOME caricature of Roger). The community got together and held a 5k at a nature park and it was featured on the local news (Holy Spirit directed as the reporter was supposed to be at a different story), and a larger than life poster was put up in the high school of the United States, where we changed Roger’s location, daily to mirror his cross-country progress.

Although “Roger’s Ride” as it began to be called throughout the community, didn’t start out the smoothest; the entire group’s bikes were stolen the first night in San Diego (except Roger’s whose was being protected by a St. Benedict cross). In the end, he was able to complete his goal and raise the money to feed OVER 1,163 children for an entire year! riding 75 miles/day for 42 days is tiring or something...

…like riding 75 miles/day for 42 days is tiring or something…

I personally worked with Roger (I taught High School English at Mike’s old High School in Indianola-ha!), and know what a caring individual he is. He has a huge heart and compassion for everyone he meets.

I sent Roger a few questions via email and I would usually trim them a bit, except everything Roger said was clearly from the heart and so rather than manipulate what he said into short concise quotes, I’m simply going to let his words do the talking.

1. What was the most difficult part about your ride?

The most difficult part of the ride was riding 42 days consecutively. While we did have a few ‘break days’, riding 75 miles a day, day in and day out, was initially difficult. Physically, I felt stronger after a couple weeks than I did in the beginning. Icing knees became an evening ritual for me and several of my riding partners.  Weather was sometimes challenging but tolerable.

2. Why did you decide to fund raise for Mary’s Meals?

I became familiar with Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow and Mary’s Meals when Magus spoke at the Christ Our Life conference in Des Moines, Iowa,  in 2010. He inspired several people in our parish to fund raise for Marys Meals. After being involved in several fund raisers at our church and in our community, I brought Marys Meals to Indianola High School, where I taught at the time. We passed out porridge samples in school, held meetings, and sold t-shirts.
Then, when I started to get serious about doing a cross county bike ride with several of my friends, I thought I would be passing up an opportunity to fund raise for a good cause. Due to my previous work to fund raise for Marys Meals, it was easy to select them for my cause.

3. Describe the feelings you had when you came home and knew that you had reached your goal (or when Ellen called you, ha!) Thinking about how many people came together to help you meet your goal.

When I found out that I had reached my fund raising goal for Marys Meals, I felt extremely proud. Not so much for myself and completing the bike ride,  but for all the people/family/friends who contributed to MM. My many co-horts in this effort,  Alex Jones (now Miller), Ann Bishop, Ellen Miller, many members of my church, close personal friends, family members, students and staff- friends from Indianola High School- ALL these groups made ‘reaching my goal’ a reality. Their efforts had a lot more to do with reaching my fund raising goals than me riding my bike on the STCR ride. The bike ride was simply an excuse for all these efforts to take place.  I simply couldn’t have done it by myself. So I am extremely proud to reach the goal and, also, excited because of all our efforts, the cause of Marys Meals has grown and become better known to many, many more people.

Are you interested in learning more about Mary’s Meals or finding out how you can help? Please visit: for more information!


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