Jon Boyce and his grandson Deven, 14, pack up in May before starting a bike trip across the country. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jon Boyce and his grandson Deven, 14, pack up in May before starting a bike trip across the country. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

8 weeks, 3,000 miles for Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center

Mukilteo teen rode his bike across the country to help raise money for the center that helped him.

MUKILTEO — Deven Boyce had several reasons for pedaling his bike more than 3,000 miles from the Mukilteo Lighthouse to the Statue of Liberty.

He likes biking.

He wanted to prove to himself he could do it, even though he was only 14.

And he wanted to make it bigger than himself by raising money for Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center in Everett.

Deven’s first stop on his cross-country journey in June was to thank the staff at Dawson Place.

About 1,100 children annually receive services from Dawson Place. Deven was helped by the agency over the three years while his grandparents, Jon and Marilyn Boyce, gained legal custody of him.

Deven raised about $10,000 for Dawson Place on the trip, named “Light to Liberty” that was followed in several Daily Herald stories. The ride started at the Mukilteo Lighthouse in June with a community sendoff and ended at the Statue of Liberty. It spanned eight weeks, 18 states, three flat tires and a slew of roadkill.

Deven wrote a letter thanking the 70 people who donated money to Dawson Place.

“Dawson Place came into my life when I needed help,” he wrote. “They listened and helped me. It changed my life. I decided to ride across America to prove to myself that I could. Another reason I made this trip was so more kids like me could get the help they need from Dawson Place.”

Dawson Place has five agencies under one roof to serve children who are victims of physical and sexual abuse or witness to violent crimes. The center also offers prevention education, outreach and a 16-week parenting class. Everything is at no cost to the clients.

Lori Vanderburg, Dawson Place director, said Deven’s ride was inspiring.

‘We are so grateful for Deven and his grandfather for all the work they did and all the ways they promoted Dawson Place and reached out to educate other kids,” Vanderburg said.

Deven had been on long bike rides with his grandfather, also an avid cyclist who’d pedaled across the country in his 30s. But this time, Grandpa Jon Boyce was his one-man pit crew, following in a 2004 Toyota van packed with supplies.

Paul Hoffman (left to right) and Jon Boyce pray for Deven to start his cross-country trek at the Mukilteo Lighthouse on June 2. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Paul Hoffman (left to right) and Jon Boyce pray for Deven to start his cross-country trek at the Mukilteo Lighthouse on June 2. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

The journey began with Deven dipping his bike’s front tire in Puget Sound at Lighthouse Park as about 40 people cheered and prayed.

Boyce, 73, planned the cross-country venture on a retiree’s budget. There were many days of eating cups of noodles, canned tuna and green beans.

The duo stopped at numerous historical landmarks, petrified forest and went whitewater rafting. They also visited a child advocacy center in Montana.

They stayed at a few motels and friends’ places, but most nights were at campgrounds or in homes through Warm Showers, a hospitality exchange service for cyclists. Hosts included an Army buddy of Boyce’s, a math teacher fluent in five languages and a couple who collect whistles. In Montana, their husband-and-wife hosts were retired FBI agents who let Deven pose with a taxidermy cougar shot with a pistol.

“I wanted him to meet America,” Boyce said. “If you want to meet the people, do it on a bicycle. In a car, it just kind of goes past you.”

For the teen, there was boredom on long, flat stretches of road, off the cell grid, with radio static or country music for company. Some days he biked 100 miles.

They made it to the Statue of Liberty in early August.

Then it was off to Europe for a month to explore and meet with friends,

From there, Deven flew back to Mukilteo. Boyce returned to the East Coast and drove the van back alone from New Jersey.

Deven made it back in time to start his freshman year at Kamiak High School and attend enough practices to play on the freshman football team.

A pancake block party breakfast was held to welcome Deven home. The Mukilteo police even stopped by.

For more information, call 425-789-3000 or visit dawsonplace.org.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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