Exchange student raises more than $4,000 for Kingston Youth Shelter

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Exchange student raises more than $4,000 for Kingston Youth Shelter

January 8, 2024


Raphael Fenski holds up a sign in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Raphael Fenski, a master's student from Germany who recently completed an exchange semester at Queen's University, stands in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. after completing a ride of 1,037 km starting in Kingston. (Provided photo)

As the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. came into sight, Raphael Fenski knew he was about to accomplish two goals: completing a grueling 1,037-km bike ride, the Race Against the Cold, and making a difference for homeless youth in Kingston.

Fenski, a German exchange student at Queen’s University and a competitive cyclist, rode from Kingston to the American capital in nine days, through cold weather and some difficult conditions, raising more than $4,000 for the Kingston Youth Shelter, double his initial target.

A master’s student from the University of Economics and Business in Vienna, Austria, Fenski arrived at Queen’s in September and had some free time at the end of the semester. Having completed lengthy cycling trips before he decided to challenge himself while also providing support for youth in his new community.

“I believe strongly that every youth should have the same possibilities, regardless of their social background,” he says, adding that he also wanted to raise awareness of how vulnerable people are even more affected by the cold. “Nobody should freeze in the winter, but be able to have opportunities, including attending university.”

Starting on Dec. 4, Fenski left Kingston and had to battle the elements as winter set in.

“The cold was omnipresent. Especially during the first half of the ride, I cycled through constant minus degrees and snow, so special gear was essential,” he says. But it reminded him of what the homeless face on a daily basis.

Along the way he also had to deal with some tough road conditions, and found there is a big difference between North America and Europe in terms of safety for cycling. However, he was able to find help whenever he needed it – a warm shower, a meal, a quick repair – thanks to the tight-knit cycling community wherever he went. Many of these new friends also became donors to the campaign.

Riding more than 100 kms each day took a toll, on his body and his bike, but he persevered and completed the trip.

Waiting at the end on a cold evening in Washington, D.C. was a friend holding up a sign reading “Mission accomplished: Race Against the Cold – 1000km from Kingston to Washington DC. Every mile brought more than just warm hearts.”

For Fenski, the endeavor was a rollercoaster of emotions.

“My takeaway is that it is worth undertaking huge efforts for a higher purpose, and if people see the created impact, they are happy to participate in something bigger,” he explains. “It motivated me during the ride, and I am proud looking back to that result. Not just the accomplishment of the sports challenge matters, but mainly the underlying purpose.”

The campaign remains open and those interested can donate via the Race Against the Cold page on

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