Lawrence – For Stuart Shanfeld, the hardest part of bicycling 500 miles through five states in seven days is not the pedaling.
It’s saying goodbye to all the great people.
“After the ride, you feel like a part of your life is missing,” Shanfeld said. “You spend six months before the ride planning, collecting donations and preparing. Working up to the ride, you train on weekends together, and then you spend a week with your riding friends on and off the bike.”
“I just finished my ninth ride,” he said. “If you add it up, that’s two and a half months of my life I’ve spent riding with these wonderful people for Anchor House.”
For the 167 cyclists and more than 30 support crew members participating in the 34th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways, Saturday was full of bittersweet goodbyes as the cyclists finished their mission, marking their 500th mile at The Lawrenceville School.
Despite sore legs and tired muscles, the cyclists’ spirits soared as they neared home, with congratulatory signs decorating the route and well-wishers cheering them on.
When the cyclists arrived at the closing ceremony for the ride, Anchor House Foundation President John Murray announced that their efforts have raised $385,00 so far. Donations will continue to come in for several weeks after the ride.
“Thank your for letting your family member be a part of the Anchor House family for a week,” Murray told the crowd gathered at the ceremony.
On their journey, the cyclists endured rain, steep hills, temperatures that soared into the 100s. They enjoyed rural roads and and a week full of beautiful scenery, from valleys and mountains to historic battlefields to Amish Country.
The week was about resilience — the resilience of the cyclists individually and as a group, dedicated to the cause of helping runaway, abused and neglected children and teens. In 2011, the Anchor House family experienced a tragedy when cyclist Doug McCune of Princeton died on the last day of the ride after colliding with a car.
McCune and his family were in the thoughts of the cyclists throughout the week, and ride organizers announced the creation of a new award in his honor that will be given to an Anchor House teen each year.
“That was the best part of the week, watching the girl from Anchor House receive that award,” said rider Kilani DiGiacomo of Lawrence. “It made it all worth while. It was another reminder that we are contributing to an organization that is making a difference in people’s lives.”
DiGiacomo was one of about 30 new riders cycling on the ride.
“The ride felt good — I felt like I was prepared with my training,” she said. “Riding with my friend Laurie made it special, and it was great to come back on the roads we trained on today.”
Asked if she would be back next year, an exhausted DiGiacomo said she will wait and see. “I’m not making any decisions for another month,” she joked.
“I’m relieved, happy, tired, and so glad to be home,” veteran rider Tom Imbrigiotta of Pennington said. “But I keep coming back every year because it is such a great group of people.”
“The cause and the people are what it is all about,” his wife, Jeanne Imbrigiotta, said. “Everyone on the ride has such a big heart for the kids.”
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 to the Ride for Runaways, visit www.anchorhouseride.org or call (609) 278-9495.