Teen raises more than $110,000 in bike race charity for Operation Underground Railroad

Source: Sarah Sanders Petersen / Deseret News

IRVINE, Calif. — One summer night in Utah, LDS teen, Mark Tenney sat at a dinner party with Timothy Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that rescues children from sex slavery. Upon hearing Ballard speak that night, Tenney knew somehow he needed to find a way to help his cause.

Now, two years later, Tenney, 17, recently handed over a check for $135,000 to Ballard after organizing “Ride the Railroad,” a charity bike event that took place this past July. Although it took him 700 hours of work the past year, around two hours each day, Tenney says he is grateful for the experience not only for the money raised, but for how it strengthened his own faith.

That night two years ago is something Tenney will never forget. Ballard told his story of originally working with the government and then feeling inspired to begin his own organization. Ballard spoke of the prayers he has said and the promptings has felt.

“It’s kind of hard to explain in just words,” Tenney said. “Something about him and his story, when you hear him talk about it, this was something that was personal to him, personal revelation, he had prayed about it. I guess two years ago when he came over to our house I felt that exact same spirit here, that this was the guy who needed to do this project, he needed people to recognize the importance of what he was doing and jump on board and support him as well.”

That’s why in July 2015 when Tenney’s family began discussing a family biking trip, he spoke up and shared his idea of a charity bike race, raising money for OUR.

“That same feeling that motivated him to help these kids out sort of touched me and my family as well, and so that’s why we decided to do something big for them,” Tenney said.

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