We are grateful for what we’ve got. It made us grateful to help out the Romanian kids who don’t have what we have. —Mason Bennett
The 650-mile trip from Santa Rosa, Calif., to San Diego can seem lengthy — especially when traveling by longboard.
A year ago, Mason Bennett called up his cousin, Kenton Durfee, with a proposition.
“Want to longboard the California coastline for orphans?” Bennett asked.
Bennett, a 23-year-old Brigham Young University student, and Durfee, a 23-year-old Brigham Young University-Idaho student, traveled down the West Coast to raise funds for an organization called Bridge of Love, a charity that supports abandoned and orphaned children in Romania, placing them in foster homes in their native country (and online at www.bridgeofloveromania.com).
The two called the trek Longboard 4 Love and set out to raise funds for Bridge of Love. Their initial goal was to raise $6,000, which is one year’s salary for a tutor that could teach up to 50 Romanian children.
It all began when Bennett returned home from a mission in Romania for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and wanted to give something back to the country he came to love so much. Bennett's mission president started Bridge of Love 10 years prior to being called to serve himself. Durfee, also a returned missionary, was eager to get on board — literally.
On April 29, after a year of planning, Bennett and Durfee kicked off their trip in Santa Rosa and headed south.
Along the way, they learned a lesson or two about perseverance — because not everything went according to schedule.
During their yearlong prep, Bennett planned out each day and each stop they would take.
“It all fell through after the fist day,” Bennett said.
But the result, he said, was really remarkable.
“We had a plan at first. It was more of our plan, but God had a different plan for where we needed to go or where we needed to stay,” Bennett said. “If it was just us we would have just stopped and driven to see all the cool hills and sites. We wouldn’t have been as blessed.”
Despite feeling blessed by God, the trip wasn’t all open roads and sandy beaches.
“The first few days were really discouraging,” Bennett said.
The duo traveled up and down several hills, finding themselves in the middle of a town. They had no place to stay.
After several unsuccessful attempts to find a place to stay, Bennett said they talked with the local fire department and were directed toward a camping area.
“But if you don’t make it there, just jump in the woods, lay down and you’ll be fine for the night,” a firefighter told them.
Bennett and Durfee never found the campsite, so following instructions, they spent the night in the woods — only to wake up in the middle of a poison oak patch the next morning.
“It was miserable,” Bennett said.
“We spent the next day talking about how we had a house; we don’t worry about where we are going to sleep at night or where we are going to eat food,” Bennett said. “We are grateful for what we’ve got. It made us grateful to help out the Romanian kids who don’t have what we have.”
Gratitude has been a recurring theme for the two cousins — because it seemed as though the people they met couldn’t help but give to their cause.
“We will talk with people for five minutes and they’ll offer to let us stay in their home. They made us feel like we were their kids,” Bennett said.
As a result, Bennett said he and Durfee have gained the desire to share all that they have with others in need.
And it’s not just a place to stay. Many people, upon hearing about Longboard 4 Love’s mission, will reach into their wallets and put money into Bennett’s and Durfee’s hands.
Bennett related an experience on his blog at longboard4love.blogspot.com when his dad came to visit.
Bennett’s father took Durfee and Bennett out to lunch, and started talking about their cause to a nearby table.
“They gave us a very generous donation and lots of good advice for upcoming roads,” Bennett wrote on the blog. “At a later meal we mentioned our cause to the waiters at our table and they donated too. ... I’m just so impressed by the kindness of other people.”
During their travels, Bennett and Durfee were able to meet with the consulate general of Romania in Los Angeles, Eugen Chivu.
Bennett's father organized the meeting, and Bennett was able to express his love for Chivu's native country.
One of Chivu's responsibilities as consulate general is to sign visas, giving other missionaries like Bennett entrance into Romania.
"We talked about the trip and what we were doing to help. We talked about what a mission does to a person, and I was able to speak his language to him," Bennett said.
Ultimately, Bennett says he was able to share the love that he cultivated while serving the Romanian people — a love he said he hopes to give back.
As of May 22, Longboard 4 Love had reached its target of $6,000 and is hoping to hit its next goal of $12,000.
Bennett and Durfee reached their destination in San Diego on May 24, just in time for Bennett to drive back to Utah with his family for his May 31 wedding.
Emmilie Buchanan is an intern for the Deseret News with Mormon Times. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: emmiliebuchanan