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When Ariana and Carina Dinu learned about the war in Ukraine and how it was affecting children, they were first moved to tears and then to action.
The two sisters from Scottsdale, Arizona set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Ukrainian refugee children. The funds are sent directly to their grandmother who lives in Galati, Romania, 15 miles from the Ukrainian border. There, the girls’ grandmother coordinates with the Biserica Crestina Emanuel church to purchase essentials for the 70-80 Ukrainian refugees that shelter there each day.
And, like many cyclists, the sisters are using their love of riding bikes to help elevate the cause.
Yet, one thing sets their story apart: Ariana is 10-years-old, and Carina is seven.
Last weekend, the Dinu girls participated in the Ignite Women’s Bike Event in Fountain Hills, Arizona, and dedicated their ride to Iryna Filkina, a Ukrainian mother who was shot and killed while riding her bike home from work.
“Her story struck a chord in their hearts,” the girls’ mother Nandita Dinu told VeloNews. “They saw her as a mother of two daughters, a woman, and a fellow cyclist who never got to reach home. The girls told us they wanted to finish the bike ride for her so her soul could rest in peace. They are hoping this story will reach Iryna’s daughters and they will find comfort in knowing that their mother was special and she was loved even by those who never knew her.”
Filkina died at the age of 53, and the girls rode a collective 53 miles in her honor.
One week before the Ignite Women’s Bike Event, Ariana and Carina rode 45 miles at El Tour de Mesa. At that point, they’d raised around $1,000, mostly collected from friends and family. After their first bike race, the number ballooned to $5,000. Now the fundraiser, named Biking for the Children of Ukraine, has raised just over $7,000 and supplies have been purchased to feed and clothe refugees in Galati as well as sent to orphanages and refugee centers in Ukraine.
In elementary school, the Dinu sisters are doing what many pro cyclists aspire to do as adults — use the platform of cycling as an agent for good. It makes sense when you consider how important riding bikes is to them already.
“Ariana has been riding since she was four years old,” Nandita Dinu said. “When she was six she saw bicyclists riding in a tour and asked if she could do the same. That was a turning point for our family. She hasn’t stopped biking since. She did her first 30-mile bike tour at age 7 and has done several bike tours since then. She was awarded the junior award for being the youngest female athlete to complete a metric century bike ride in El Tour de Mesa in 2019. Ariana completed a century ride last November in El Tour de Tucson.”
Now, Dinu said, the girls wake up at 5:00 a.m. on weekend mornings to “train” with their father.
“Ariana has turned us all into biking enthusiasts, including her little sister Carina,” she said.
Whether they end up on development teams or continue riding for fun with their family, the girls have already discovered that bikes can serve a purpose beyond fitness and friendship. The exponential growth of the $25 they launched the fundraising campaign with is the fruit of their efforts.
“My sister, Carina, and I wanted to be the first to donate money to our fundraising effort,” Ariana wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We are using our money from the tooth fairy for this donation. We are glad that our money will be put to good use. Our hearts are with the children of Ukraine.”