Lancaster, Pa. – Ten and done. Two decades ago, that was the mantra for many Anchor House cyclists.
But 20 years later, several of those cyclists are still logging the miles for the annual Ride for Runaways.
This week, a record six cyclists are completing their 20th Anchor House ride to benefit runaway, abused and neglected children. Rick Tofani, Steve Czelusniak, John Murray, Tim Quinn, Bill Ward and Paul VonDerHeyden have logged at least 60,000 miles combined if all of their Anchor House miles are added up.
Some of the men were accomplished cyclists when they decided to participate in the ride, and then they became passionate about the cause. Others were biking novices who were passionate about the cause, and then got hooked on cycling.
“I was a totally naive rookie when I signed up in 1993,” said Steve Czelusniak, 56, of Ewing. “I wore a heavy helmet, I had never changed a flat tire on a bike, and I was concerned about how I was going to bike seven days consecutively. I didn’t know how I was going to survive.”
Czelusniak, a health and physical education teacher, read about the ride in the newspaper. He wanted to take part because he was drawn to the cause and cycling would be a healthy. He survived the week with the help of a group of cyclists called Team Silly, and after that first year he was hooked. As the years went by, he became an experienced cyclist, and was more and more devoted to the cause.
“I feel so blessed with my family and the opportunities I had. I have a wonderful wife and children,” Czelusniak said. “I hear about the children and families out there and the needs they have. The fact that a place like Anchor House exists — it is just so important that the mission to help children keeps going.”
“If I can ride a bike 500 miles over a week and collect money to help Anchor House do the work they do, that is the least I can do,” he said.”I’m so thankful that my family supports me, and I’m grateful for all the work the organizers do to get the ride set up. There are a lot of logistics involved in moving so many people from one place to the next for a whole week.”
Monsignor Rick Tofani, a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, learned about the ride through the husband of a secretary at the Diocese. After 20 years on the ride, Tofani has not lost his sense of wonder when it comes to the Anchor House, and said he has no desire to stop riding any time soon.
“I keep coming back, No. 1 one because of the cause, and No. 2, because of the people,” Tofani said as he took a break at a rest stop on day five of the ride Thursday, a 73-mile trek from Gettysburg to Lancaster, Pa.
“What is remarkable to me every year I come on ride is seeing all these people from various backgrounds who are willing to give up a week of their time for a cause like this,” Tofani said. “It’s so inspiring to see these people committed to this common cause. Very few things in life inspire me more than that, other than my faith.”
“To me this is faith in action of a different kind,” he said. “I’m not talking about Christianity or Catholicism. I’m talking about faith in the human spirit, and what we can accomplish if we put our minds, bodies, souls and hearts together.”
Krystal Knapp is a cyclist on the 34th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways. For more information about Anchor House or to make a donation visit www.anchorhouseride.org or call (609) 278-9495.