ACWORTH, Ga. -- You don't have to be an Olympic athlete to inspire through physical performance. In fact, you don't even have to be an athlete if you listen to Dr. Lori Salierno. She says she trained for only three months before pedaling all the way across the United States at the rate of 100 miles per day.
"Each state had a challenge, and each state had a beauty, we had the Rocky Mountains we had to climb over which was about 10,296 feet of climbing," Salierno said. "So I just put it into granny gear and said to myself, 'You're going to be climbing this mountain for a very long time."
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Salierno said she cycled to raise money and awareness for her non-profit organization called Celebrate Life International. It funds a faith-based youth mentorship program for troubled youth called "Teach One to Lead One." It started at North Cobb High School before spreading to other schools and states, and so that's where she came home on Saturday morning. She was greeted with cheers, music, balloons and a proclamation from the Mayor of Acworth.
"I think anytime somebody rides 3200 miles on a bicycle, and they're coming back to their hometown, you want to make sure you come out and give them a really special welcome," Mayor Tommy Allegood said.
"I cycle, I've ridden a hundred miles in a day, and I don't get up the next day," said Salierno's friend Sheri Young. "But I knew if God called her to do it, she would be able to do it and it would be amazing."
Dozens of supporters showed up to welcome her back, including one man with a baby stroller. Aaron Sarvis said he had come a long way from drug addiction and a series of poor choices when he was younger. He credited the program for his turnaround.
"The program helped give me a little bit of hope, it showed me that some people really cared about me and that they were there for me," Sarvis remembered. "It gave me a little balance and structure in my life when I really didn't have it at that time."
Sarvis is on track to be the first college graduate in his family. Salierno says stories like that one helped propel her through the Colorado Rockies and the windy Kansas plains.
"It was somewhat symbolic to me that if you can get through these tough winds these kids can get through tough circumstances in their life," Salierno said.