Drexel University President Juan Fry announced in January he was going to participate in the Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride in order to raise money for a nonprofit organization that teaches underprivileged kids to play squash, called Squashing Institutional Poverty.
PNBR, an annual event that has gone for about six years in the City of Brotherly Love, welcomed the courageous father of three in order to join their message to “promote fuel conscious consumption, positive body image, and cycling advocacy,” according to its website FAQ.
Fry released this statement to the Drexel community on his participation: “I’ve always believed everyone should be proud of the bodies that they were graced with. That’s why I’m showing everyone what that means by releasing my inhibitions and casually biking around Philadelphia without a single article of clothing covering any part of my body for two to three hours.”
He continued, “And the fact that I can do all of that and support children who have never held a squash racket in their life before? You can all watch my bare chest swell with incredible pride as I slowly make my way across the entire city.” Fry, who has been known to take on enormous projects of civic engagement, hopes that this will be an example to the Drexel students on how to give back to their community.
And it worked. Less than a week after he made the announcement, the President’s GoFundMe page had met its goal of $60,000 and still received donations until the last day. The bike ride has gained massive student support, excited to see the man who allocates their thousands of dollars of tuition wearing only a smile.
“I’m proud of the freedom and self-advocacy that President Fry is showing us. Honestly, I feel so empowered just thinking that I’m going to see him down 34th Street,” Kimmy West, general business major, said. “I’m never going to feel more comfortable with my body than I will when I watch him in all of his glory pedaling his flat-bar road bicycle past me and embracing the spring air.”
The day of Fry’s takeoff March 17 was a slightly chilly morning, with dew still covering the grass after a misty night. Fry’s skin was perking with goosebumps and other kinds of bumps. Students and faculty alike gathered around the starting point, clapping and cheering when Fry shouted, “There’s going to be a full moon tonight!” before he took off his spandex biking gear.
The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design showed its own level of support, making portraits of what art students imagined Fry would look like in his birthday suit. Several students held up one massive painting, showing Fry lying on top of a velvet spread. His scruffy face in the portrait had a brooding look, as if all the artists were aware that the audience was heavily focused on his physique.
“He looked exactly like what I thought he looked like when he’s naked,” graphic design major Calvin McGroom, who had completed one of the portraits, said. He stared unblinkingly as Fry covered his entire body with apple-blossom-scented Neutrogena Body Lotion before taking his seat.
Fry decided he was going to have the full PNBR spirit and get his body painted. His whole body, even his own personal dragon, was painted in a bright yellow and blue, reminiscent of the institution he iss proud to lead.
Along with the entirety of Drexel coming to watch Fry, the children that will ultimately benefit from this event gathered at the starting point. SIP director, Llamont Murphy, supervised the children, who were all between the ages of eight to 17.
“I can’t express how unbelievably grateful I am that the children get to see that magnificent man get buck naked and bike around the city so they can play squash. Without him, these children might not have had the opportunity to learn about this graceful and important sport. The feeling of holding the shaft of that racket and pounding the balls against the wall is indescribable,” he said.
The children’s eyes seemed to be filled with hope and glee as Fry turned back to say, “I’m not going to turn my other cheek on you,” before plopping down and pedaling off. His ride took a record time of four hours, as Fry made sure to bike as slowly as possible for everyone to take him all in.
There was another crowd of students waiting t the end cheering for his victory, followed by sighs of disappointment as he finally put his gear back on, smelling slightly of sweat and rubber. Fry hopes to make this ride a tradition, so he can use his body to support not only children who play squash but all of Philadelphia.