MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. - After finishing a 4,300-mile, cross-country journey on his bicycle, Emmaus Holder got to soak in his achievement.
“It’s almost this kind of surreal euphoria,” he said. “Ah man, it just sinks in. Like, I did it.”
The 19-year-old started in Topsail, North Carolina in May before finishing at the Manhattan Beach pier, west of Los Angeles, on Wednesday. The trek took 56 days, with Holder riding about 100 miles a day and taking occasional days to rest.
But the journey was about more than the physical test. Holder is raising awareness for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, a group of developmental disorders that can occur when a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy.
“It’s one of the leading developmental disabilities, just by population, in the U.S.,” Holder said. “Roughly five percent of Americans are speculated to have an FASD.”
It's a personal cause for Holder, who has two adopted brothers with an FASD. He says the world, including the medical community, needs more education and understanding about the disorders.
“Dealing with the difficulties of the system and dealing with the ramifications of that kind of disability and just finding the complete lack of support, I thought it’d be a very necessary thing to talk about," he said.
Holder is already starting the conversation. During his ocean-to-ocean ride, he met and interviewed families affected by an FASD. He is using those interviews and qualitative analysis to compile research that he plans to publish.
“Basically highlighting we’re in a bit of a mental health crisis and that a lot of our medical systems and other institutions aren’t able to take care of these people,” he said.
As he shared his journey with strangers along the way, Holder says he was met with kindness across the country. Strangers offered him everything from heartfelt conversations to food and even places to stay for a night, allowing him to limit the amount of nights he spent camping in his tent.
“The magnitude of which people were just so giving was very overwhelming," he said.
To learn more about Emmaus's journey, you can click here.