Truc Huynh of Portland rides his bike in the city Tuesday in preparation for a six-day bike trip from Madawaska to Kittery starting Thursday. He is trying to raise money for several charities, and also plans to meet with and learn about the experiences and struggles of Mainers who share his story of being an immigrant. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Truc Huynh has lived in southern Maine for 29 years. But the 37-year-old has never spent time north of Bangor.

Starting Thursday, Huynh and Nate Cutting, a friend from Brewer, will bike the pine tree-lined roads of Madawaska before pedaling south more than 400 miles all the way to the coastal roads of Kittery. Along the way, he plans to meet with and learn about the experiences and struggles of Mainers who share his story of being an immigrant.

Huynh also is using the ride to raise funds for five nonprofits that focus on education and childhood development: the Mitchell Institute, Susan L. Curtis Foundation, Greater Immigrant Welcome Center, Community Bicycle Center and Jobs for Maine graduates. He says he has received $16,000 from business partners, friends and family.

Organizing “Trucking Across Maine” started while Huynh and Cutting were participating in the 2018 Trek Across Maine – a 100-mile bike ride fundraiser for the American Lung Association. Cutting, 36, says the two had a deep conversation about the differences between northern and southern Maine, and misperceptions each region has of the other, particularly around discussions of race and immigration.

Over the course of the three-day trek, the two came to the conclusion that despite vastly different life experiences, there are no fundamental differences between their friends’ fathers who worked in paper mills and Huynh’s father who immigrated to Portland. Both wanted to give their children better opportunities.

“I think that there has been a divide in between people from different regions thinking that we’re on different teams,” Cutting said. “People have more in common than what they recognize every day.”

In 1989, 8-year old Huynh immigrated from Vietnam to Portland with his mother, father and six siblings. His father worked at Barber Foods for 15 years and his mother cleaned homes.

Huynh graduated from Portland High School in 2001 and was named a George Mitchell Institute scholar. He says the institute’s financial and pre-professional aid allowed him to graduate from Bowdoin College with a degree in government and legal studies in 2005.

After Bowdoin, Huynh took a job at Unum insurance in Portland, where he has been employed for 15 years and is now a senior account executive. In 2013, his family also opened PHOever Maine, which serves southern Vietnamese cuisine in Westbrook.

He hopes meeting locals during the course of his trip will dispel misconceptions about immigrants. Huynh held a green card until 2004 and became a U.S. citizen in 2005.

“I thought, what a good way to kind of highlight our state to say, here’s an immigrant that has benefited from many people, including the government, when he and his family first came here, and also private citizens as well,” said Huynh. “And they have made it and are now paying it forward by giving back to the community that he grew up in, in the state that he grew up in.”

Paying it forward is important to Huynh. He believes a lot of his success can be attributed to the generosity he experienced during his first years in the United States. He vividly recalled the kindergarten teacher who volunteered her time after school teaching him how to read, and the excitement he felt when a church group would give the family clothes.

Although most of his encounters with locals will be random, Huynh has three planned stops, including a family-owned farm in Corinna that is at a crossroads now that the youngest generation has moved out of state. Most of the ride will follow rural Route 11, a 400-mile road that runs from Fort Kent south to Lebanon.

Aside from sharing his story, Huynh plans to give financial support to his community. Originally, he hoped to divide the funds he raised among 16 communities he hoped to visit in all 16 of Maine’s counties. Logistically, however, winding through all of Maine’s counties in one week was not feasible.

So he narrowed the beneficiaries to five organizations that had helped him through the years and that support children in need.

Huynh has been involved with the Susan L. Curtis Foundation for approximately seven years. Kathryn Pierce, its executive director, says Huynh has served on the development committee, and also volunteers and has contributed individually and through his company.

In addition to the financial contribution, a portion of Huynh’s ride will be filmed for a video that highlights the work of the five organizations.

Huynh says the organizations have helped plan the trip. He says volunteers, employees and children at Jobs for Maine Graduates, the Susan L. Curtis Foundation and the Community Bicycle Center will ride with him throughout various stretches of the trip, and some organizations have offered lodging at volunteers’ or employees’ residences throughout the state.


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