Imagine being able to take the summer off from your job to jump on a bus with your closest friends and travel the U.S., doing good deeds for communities along the way. Though it sounds like a blast, most people won’t ever get the chance to go on that particular life-changing adventure. But this summer, three young college graduates from Lincolnville will do just that — and you’ll be able to follow them every step of the way and even dictate some of their moves.
Childhood friends Corey McLean, Tyler Dunham and Seth Brown call their project “Love, the Bus,” and this month, they exceeded their fundraising goal, raising $20,000 donated by more than 200 supporters.
The success means they’ll be able to hit the road in early June and spend three months traveling and giving to charities nationwide.
“It’s overwhelming the number of people who back us and how much people believe in us and what we’re doing,” said Dunham.
It all began when the three friends — who initially met as toddlers — were sailing in Boston Harbor. A conversation about cheap school buses evolved as they started thinking of ways a road trip could be made meaningful and worthwhile.
“Our mission is to take this trip across the country and do as much good as possible,” said Dunham.
“While having as much fun as possible,” added McLean.
As they cross the country, the boys, as they call themselves, will complete daily and weekly challenges, earning money from their business sponsors and donating that money to various charities. Daily, they’ll post webisodes — videos on their website — to keeping viewers informed.
The challenges will test the group mentally, physically and maybe even emotionally.
“We want to cross the Mississippi on a raft, surf tanker waves, learn to do a double back flip on skis, choreograph a dance party with a hundred strangers,” Dunham said. “And we’ll do some creative things to raise awareness. One lady asked us to raise awareness for Lyme disease, so we were thinking of maybe running around dressed as limes for a day.”
“Some of the challenges are going to be kind of risky,” said McLean. “I don’t swim well, so I won’t like crossing the Mississippi with alligators and snakes — and I guess there are catfish too, which have poisonous barbs. I don’t like that either.”
At first glance, the project seems similar to “The Buried Life,” an MTV reality series about four friends on a road trip to accomplish goals written on their “bucket list,” things they’d like to do before they die. And while the Linconville group is familiar with the show, they’ve pointed out several ways in which their project is different.
For one, theirs is about community, not personal goals.
“We grew up in this awesome community that we feel was extremely influential on our development as people,” said McLean.
This isn’t the first time the boys have taken on a big project to benefit society. When they were 15 years old, they raised more than $20,000 to build the first terrain park at the Camden Snow Bowl, a recreation area that has expanded and remains a popular hangout for local youth. Dunham’s older brother, Silas, also was part of that project, but a recent promotion has prevented him from committing to “Love, the Bus” for an entire summer.
“Our platform is similar to a marathon run for charity,” said McLean. “With pledges and being timed on our challenges. We’ll continue to push ourselves until we’re finally spent.”
Unlike a TV show, “Love, the Bus” is an interactive Internet series. Viewers can submit challenges on Facebook and Twitter, and the boys will pick submissions based on what they believe to be the most creative challenges paired with worthy charities. Once they complete each challenge, the money donated by their business sponsors will go to the viewer-chosen charity — a gift signed “Love, the Bus.”
So viewers know where they are at all times, they’re trying to sync a GPS device to their official website.
Less than a month ago, their newly purchased 40-foot-long school bus rolled into Dunham’s yard for renovations, a process they will share online through a time-lapse video.
In an effort to make the bus as environmentally friendly as possible, they have plans for solar panels, bamboo flooring and running the engine on vegetable oil. They recently tore out the seats to put in self-constructed bunk beds.
“They have to be pretty custom-made to fit a bus,” said Dunham.
They should all be skilled bus drivers by the time they reach the city streets of Los Angeles, the last stop on their journey.
“I think the hardest part will be to get it out of [Dunham’s] driveway,” said McLean, laughing.
In addition to their daily challenges submitted by viewers, the boys will formulate more extensive weekly challenges.
And, once a week, “Love, the Bus” plans to post a “Video Response Challenge” to viewers. The viewer who submits the most entertaining and effective documentation of their completion of the challenge will win $2,500 to give to an organization they support.
“We’re going into it thinking of it as a full-time job,” said Dunham.
As they make their way west, they’ll put their heads together to come up with locations where they can spread the most love, such as communities near the Gulf of Mexico affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“Our trip isn’t only about the challenges, it’s about the people we meet, our relationships as friends and showcasing the beauty of our country,” said McLean. “A lot of this trip is based on spontaneity. We have plotted points, places that we’ll reach each Friday. The rest is uncharted territory.”
The initial $20,000 in donations will fund their bus and equipment. While waiting for Brown to return from his studies overseas, McLean and Dunham are looking for visionary companies to sponsor each week of their trip.
The first episode will be shot in Maine, where they will complete challenges and “spread the love” to their first charity and community.
To reach the boys, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org For information about the project, visit www.lovethebus.tv. To watch their videos and follow their progress, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Love-the-Bus/170801829604241 or their Kickstarter Web page at kck.st/gWkv4S.