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Syrian conflict hits home for Minnesota couple

By By Chris Cole
Published On: Sep 15 2013 01:44:42 AM CDT

What do Minnesota, Syrian refugees and unicycles all have in common? Dustin and Katie Kelm.

POCATELLO, Idaho -

A tense standoff surrounding Syria has been dominating headlines around the nation and around the world, but one couple wants to bring attention to the people in Syria – now suffering through the third year of a civil war.

They're doing it by riding unicycles across the country. Reporter Chris Cole caught up with them as they passed through eastern Idaho.

Dustin and Katie Kelm are on day 72 travelling across the United States. Add in unicycles, the situation in Syria and only the clothes on their backs and you've got the Refuge Ride.

"I was doing a uni-show in Switzerland last year, and I met two guys from Syria,” Dustin said. “One was a ten year old boy who had just lost both of his parents."

Dustin said he was heartbroken, so he and his wife Katie decided they needed to take action. They began their ride on Tybee Island in Georgia on June 21.

"We're actually ending our ride Yachats, Oregon,” Katie said, “Which is the town we got married in."

The couple will celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary this December.

Katie has been unicycling for 8 years, and Dustin for 31. They travel across the world as the Uni-Show; Dustin performs on the unicycle, and Katie helps organize the events.

The unicycles they're riding are a special 'big-wheel' version, which makes travel easier than the standard-sized unicycle wheel. While they've had several flat tires along the road, they have managed to miss a large amount of severe weather.

As for their accommodations, they have only paid for three nights out of the 71 nights they have had on the road.  Some people have offered to let the Kelms stay in their home, hotels offer rooms for free and Dustin's parents even drove from Minnesota to help them find a place to stay in some of the barren Wyoming areas.

Dustin said the support they're receiving just confirms people care about Syria and its people, and just need an outlet to help.

"As we looked into what was going on in Syria,” said Dustin, “we learned there were 1 million refugees. We just thought, ‘There's something we can do.'"

They were already part of Operation Mobilization, a worldwide network of people spreading the idea of pray, give and go. They made their goal to help people realize they can help the Syrian refugees and anyone else displaced.

"We wanted to do it together and I didn't want to let him have all the fun by himself," said Katie. "We're a team. We travel together and do the performing and the outreaches around the world together. So what we do, we do it together."

And they're hoping the people they meet will work together to help those in need.

The Kelms were going to start the ride earlier, but during a training ride in April, Dustin fell. He had to recover from a concussion and a broken arm, but he and his wife said they'd finish the ride no matter what.

For information about the Kelm's ride, you can follow them on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/192r2Iy), on YouTube (http://bit.ly/192riaf), on Twitter (http://bit.ly/18ny7bp), on their website (http://bit.ly/1eQLZw3) or on their blog (http://bit.ly/17XMEbQ).

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