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Mills alumna gives back

Maureen Leahy

A passion for travel and adventure and a dedication to public health led Mills alumna Annee Deering to cycle across the nation in a fundraising trip for the Davis Community Clinic in Davis Calif.

Deering, whose first name is pronounced “Uh-Nay,” began cycling while pursuing her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at Mills.

The 2006 graduate said her interest then was racing, but while touring Vietnam by bus she decided there was a better way to see a country. Since then, Deering has ventured into long distance biking as her preferred medium for viewing the world. The first country she wanted to see was her own.

“[Americans] have a preoccupation with seeing other places,” she said, “but we have one of the most beautiful countries in the world.”

Deering said the particular appeal of traveling by bicycle is that it “allows the traveler to say, ‘I physically have been there.’ You get a personal view of the country.”

In mid-March, Deering will begin her journey across the country on the trip she has named “Annee Across America.”
Accompanied by her boyfriend, Chris Horangic, Annee will pedal 3,159 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They will fly from California to St. Augustine, Florida on March 10, and then begin their three-month trek to San Diego, taking the popular Southern Tier bike route.

To get the word out about this fundraiser, Deering started from the ground up. She created the Web site,, then she told people about the trip, starting with friends and family.

“I found that people were really interested in donating,” she said, “because they thought the trip was a really unique thing.”
She went to businesses, newspapers, teachers and colleagues. She made cold calls and said the money just started coming in from Davis, where the clinic is, and from Los Angeles, where she resides.

Deering plans to earn a master’s degree in Pediatrics and Public Health in order to become a nurse practitioner from the UCLA School of Nursing.

“I would like to design my career around universal health care,” she said, adding that her “ultimate career goal” is to work in the field of international health care.

Deering said she is passionate about creating and supporting affordable and accessible health care. Although she is not yet in a position to offer financial assistance, she said this trip is an opportunity for her to start “giving back” to the causes she so strongly supports.

“It’s never too early to give back, in spite of student loans,” said Deering. “I couldn’t donate five thousand dollars to the clinic, but why couldn’t I do something to raise five thousand dollars for the clinic?”

So, with a little ingenuity, Deering thought of a way to make money for the Davis Community Clinic.
The clinic is a division of the Sacramento CommuniCare Health Centers, whose mission, as stated on its Web site, is to provide high quality health care to those in need. “Most importantly,” Deering writes on her Web site, “no one is turned away based on an inability to pay.”

When deciding which public health group to raise money for, Deering quickly zeroed in on the Davis clinic. Davis, Calif. is not only her hometown, but she said it is also “bike-obsessed.” The decision seemed only natural. She called John Bonner, the clinic’s developmental director, and told him her fundraising plans. “He was so honored,” she said.

Deering has been pinching pennies for the last year to save money for the long journey. She has $2,500 saved for the trip, which she says will allow her to spend one night per week in a hotel, and have about $20 a day for expenses.

In addition to various odd jobs around the city, Annee works at REI, the mega-sporting gear company. Her enthusiasm got her a job in the bike department, as did her special interest in long distance touring. The job at REI puts money in her bank account, but it has other practical benefits too.

“I wanted to get a cheap bike,” Annee said. “I wanted to learn what to do when my bike breaks, and I wanted to meet other L.A. cyclists.”

But REI is not just her employer-the company is now one of several businesses sponsoring Deering’s cross-country adventure.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, Deering was training hard, but she was quick to point out that she doesn’t consider herself a hardcore athlete. She would ride along the Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu to Santa Monica some days, and along the Los Angeles River on others.

She has tried to spread the word about her mission, to get more sponsors and to be as prepared as possible.

Deering will not benefit financially from this endeavor, but she will not go unrewarded either. While she pedals her way across the states, she will have the satisfaction of knowing that her efforts will provide at least some people with a much-deserved visit to the doctor.

Deering is now relying on the promoting she has already done to yield great results and although she does not have any financial expectations, Deering said she is optimistic.