Two Scottsdale girls biked 45 miles in the El Tour de Mesa on Saturday to raise funds for Ukrainian children who have been displaced by the war.
Carina Dinu, 7, and Ariana Dinu, 10, biked for nearly five hours on a long uphill road with temperatures over 80 degrees, only to reach the finish line with a smile.
“It was hard,” Ariana said. “But I knew I couldn’t give up because the children in Ukraine also went through many hardships and they didn’t give up. So I decided I wouldn’t give up.”
Ariana said she and her sister trained on weekend mornings for about three months to prepare for the 45-mile tour, in which Ariana obtained second place and Carina third for the female under 17 category.
Carina, who also won a trophy for being the youngest competitor in the tour, said that even though sometimes she felt the uphill road “would never end,” she enjoyed the tour and “felt happy” to be doing it to help refugee children from Ukraine.
According to Nan Dinu, their mother, the two little girls had the idea of starting a GoFundMe page with $3.47 they collected from their piggy banks.
“I was just touched,” Dinu said. “They said ‘we have everything we need, and those kids need it more than we do.'”
According to Dinu, her daughters’ initial goal was to raise $1,000. To their surprise, they met that goal within a day and have raised more than $4,800 as of Saturday with donations from family, friends, neighbors and even complete strangers, Dinu said.
“We didn’t expect it,” she said. “We were blown away by the generosity of people coming together to support this for the girls, and it just seems like so many people all over the world are coming together in support for what’s happening in Ukraine.”
According to Valentin Dinu, the girls’ father who biked alongside them on Saturday, the donations collected will be sent to the girl’s grandmother, who lives in the Romanian city of Galati and is volunteering with a community church working to provide shelter to Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the war.
The church, called Biserica Crestina Emanuel, currently hosts around 80 refugees and will use the donations to purchase food, medicine, hygene items and toys for children, Valentin Dinu said.
“It’s quite amazing how the church quickly turned around when the war started a month ago. They were pretty much able to open their doors and turn themselves into a place that can host (refugees),” Valentin Dinu said. “They do that for them but at the same time they rely on people to help them.”
According to Nan Dinu, the church also collaborates with churches in other border countries and within Ukraine to provide assistance to families affected by the war.
Nan Dinu said that when the girls heard about the situation of Ukrainian refugees and the hardships of displaced children, they were moved to tears.
“Their first reaction was that they’re kids, just like them. They should be going to school, playing, and instead, they’re going through something so incredibly difficult in their life,” she said. “To them, their main purpose has been to connect with those kids and let them know that they’re not alone and there’s other kids out there who are there for them.”
According to Nan Dinu, the idea of the fundraiser first started with a poem the two sisters wrote for Ukrainian children.
“Carina, being 7, she came up with some rhyming words, and then they came up with ideas,” she said. “It was incredible listening to two kids doing this … I helped them at the end, but the bulk of it was just coming from their hearts, and it’s just incredibly touching.”
The poem, directed to refugee children and inspired by the Ukrainian flag, is listed on the GoFundMe page alongside an artwork piece also composed by the girls.
“It just makes us so proud that they wanted to do this,” Nan Dinu said. “They started it, but just doing it for them, with them, it’s been very rewarding. We’re very grateful.”
Reach breaking news reporter Laura Daniella Sepulveda at email@example.com or on Twitter @lauradnews.
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