Four college graduates who grew up in Lincolnville are preparing for a cross-country trip this summer, but this is no standard “On the Road” adventure that 20-somethings by the thousands embark on every year.

The boys, as they call themselves, have something different in mind, and they are starting with a retired school bus and the mission of building optimism nationwide. Their most treasured mottos — “love what you do” and “help others” — have influenced the creation of project “Love, the Bus, 80 Challenges for Good” that entails taking a three-month jaunt across America, tackling some wild, crazy and creative challenges, producing an interactive web television series, and, they hope, procuring financial contributions for organizations and constructive causes they encounter along a summer’s way.

Logistically, they will rely on a retired school bus, its fuel system modified to run on vegetable oil (so it will always smell like french fries, they say), and whose interior will be converted to accommodate four guys, plus a few crew members, for an expedition that will ultimately end somewhere in California, most likely San Francisco or Los Angeles.

“We haven’t set the route and we want it to be kind of fluid,” said Tyler Dunham, the media spokesman for the enterprise. His cohorts include Corey McLean, Seth Brown and his brother, Silas Dunham. The four were raised in Lincolnville, and have graduated from college or are about to graduate. Silas is currently in Asia, but is communicating with Corey and Seth, both based in Boston at Emmanuel and Emerson colleges, respectively, and Tyler, back in Lincolnville after graduating from Connecticut College.

“I need to learn how to drive a school bus,” admits Tyler, whose major was environmental studies and economics.

The four have taken some road trips together, up to Prince Edward Island and across to Toronto, camping out of a Subaru station wagon. This trip will be a bit different, however, and its success lies in fulfilling a business plan that includes corporate fundraising and writing grants. It also requires filmmaking talent and basic equipment including hand-held digital cameras, such as Flips and Go Pros.

“We want to look like we’re producing it,” said Tyler. “We’re four guys. We know what we are going to do and we are just going with it.”

The concept is simple: Every week, and nearly every day, they will be assuming challenges to raise money for local organizations and programs dedicated to education, getting individuals outdoors, and human services. The television episodes will be produced weekly and feature the challenges, as well as a story of the local organization or program chosen for the challenge’s contribution. The challenge will require between 10 to 24 hours to complete and will work against a pledge of $24,000. The faster the challenge is completed, the more money remains for the organization that the challenge supports.

Challenges will be posed by individuals on Facebook or Tweeted to them, and viewers will suggest organizations that fit with the Love, the Bus mission. The Maine boys will then post updates about the challenges, which might include what friends and viewers are already suggesting. At kickstarter.com, the spot where Love, the Bus is soliciting donations, ideas are already rolling in, such as visiting a home for battered women and children in Massachusetts, riding a distance charity bike ride, choreographing a spontaneous themed dance party of 100-plus citizens in a small town and making a music video out of it, working with Knox County schools to plan a Martin Luther King Day of Service, visiting a middle school in the Bronx and helping make a window farm, and teaching students how to make a bus run on vegetable oil.

Weekly, they will also issue a challenge to viewers who submit the most persuasive, entertaining, and effective documentation of a challenge completion.

The success of Love, the Bus depends also on the four securing corporate donations. In return, they will paste their donor names onto the body of the bus, advertising.

Love, the Bus is an experiment in community building, and an exercise in skills the boys have learned growing up and in college. It is also an experiment in interactive television, and with their background in film (they credit Jack Churchill an inspirational teacher), economics, finance and entrepreneurship, their cross-country trip takes on a whole new dimension.

Dunham is fine with admitting that the four friends want to have one final adventure together before settling into building careers.

“But the focus is not so much surviving on the bus,” he said. “It is the thriving and using the bus as a medium for sharing positive stories with communities. It is not so much about our personalities but the stories we are trying to convey. The concept is more about sharing the positive things going on, and supporting them.”

It may be their background, growing up in a community that is built on goodwill, that has engendered a strong sense of social responsibility. Or maybe it is a generational phenomenon, and they are four of millions who seek ways to make communities healthier, or because they are held sturdy by a strong network of family and friends. Perhaps it is a combination of all that is compelling the boys to take what they have learned into different corners of the country, and then beam back through the cyber world what they are learning.

Dunham says simply that they want to be an antidote for the current negative outlook of America.

Until the end of January, the boys are busy raising $12,000 to get their bus back on the road. Already, they have received pledges of more than $10,000, and they hope to top off the goal on Jan. 15 at the Camden Snow Bowl, with a free public Empty Bus Supper, beginning at 6 p.m. There, they will talk about their web series, and their parents will be cooking the chili. The Pastry Garden, Fresh off the Farm and the Good Tern Coop are also kicking in for the effort.

filed under: