Wensky dreams of opening his own restaurant. At 20, he already believes it is possible one day. A full-time chef at Wegman’s in West Windsor who studies culinary arts at Mercer County Community College, he has been living in an Anchor House apartment program for young adults for the past year and a half.
“Having housing gave me the stability to work and go to school,” Wensky said. “I just received a promotion at Wegman’s, which increases my chances of owning my own restaurant some day.”
Wensky was honored Friday night with the Doug McCune Award at the annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways banquet. McCune, a 16-year Anchor house ride veteran, was killed on the last day of the ride in 2011. The award was created in recognition of his dedication to Anchor House and its mission to serve runaway, abused and neglected children. A scientist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, McCune was a top fundraiser for the charity. The Douglas McCune Award is presented annually to an Anchor House teen who demonstrates many of McCune’s qualities, including humility, hard work, academic achievement, and a concern for others.
This year, two teens were presented with awards. The other award winner, Cornealia, works full time at Amazon and is president of the Anchor House Youth Advisory Council. She says before she was at Anchor House, she was shy and didn’t open up to anyone. She learned to express herself at Anchor House, and is now an advocate for other young people. She has talked to the new Trenton mayor about addressing violence in the community, and works to change state policies regarding housing programs for young adults.
The more than 150 cyclists and almost 40 support crew members participating in the 40th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways this week are raising money to provide shelter, life skills and other needs for teens and young adults like Wensky and Cornealia so they can become successful adults.
At the banquet Friday night, the cyclists found out that the ride has raised $443,000 so far. The goal is to raise $525,000 this year.
The Ride for Runaways was founded by Trenton native Joe Yuhas in 1979 when he was 21 in order to raise money to keep the then new shelter open. At the banquet Friday, an emotional Yuhas talked about how the Ride for Runaways not only changes the lives of young people, but also changed his own life and the lives of other cyclists who join together for the cause.
“It’s special to be back with all of you on this special anniversary I couldn’t even imagine 40 years ago,” Yuhas said. “At a young age, starting Anchor House and the Ride for Runaways taught me the importance of taking bold risks. That experience taught me about compassion, teamwork, generosity, and the value of diversity. It also taught me that principles are worth standing up for. Anchor House has done a lot more for me than I can every do for it.”
The Ride for Runaways attracts new cyclists and veteran participants dedicated to the cause each year. At the banquet, cyclists where recognized with milestone awards for five, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years of participation.
Thirty-nine veteran participants received milestone awards for participating in the 500-mile bike ride year after year. This week one cyclist, Ken Sharples, is the first to complete his 30th ride, biking his 15,000th mile for Anchor House.
On day six of the Ride for Runaways, Sharples and the other cyclists pedaled 76 miles from Lancaster to Lansdale, Pa. enjoying scenic Amish Country before climbing several large hills near the near the end of the day. The final leg of the journey Saturday from Lansdale to Pennington is 54 miles. The cyclists will then bike 10 miles to the Quaker Bridge Mall for a closing ceremony in the center court at 3 p.m.
To learn more about Anchor House of to make a donation for the Ride for Runaways, visit Anchorhouseride.org. Planet Princeton is the media sponsor for the 40th annual ride.
Anchor House Cyclist Milestones
Dee Dee Juno
Tom van de Sande