Ben Thornton won’t have any trouble finding the motivation to pedal 500 miles over a week on the Anchor House Ride for Runaways.
“I know the faces and the cases of the youth,” Thornton said. “I see everything they go through and how they make progress at Anchor House, and when I think of them it energizes me to want to ride each day with high spirits. They will be in my thoughts all week.”
Thornton has a unique perspective on the Anchor House Ride for Runaways. The East Windsor resident is a veteran Anchor House rider, and he is also the outreach coordinator for Anchor House.
“I love the Anchor House ride because it is a great mix of people from every walk of life,” he said. “The one thing they all have in common is that they share the same concerns for kids — kids they don’t even know personally. Their concern is both profound and encouraging.”
More than 180 cyclists and 30 support crew members will participate in the 36th annual Ride for Runaways July 12 to July 19 to raise money for Anchor House, the Trenton-based shelter for abused, neglected and runaway children and teens. The cyclists collect donations from friends, family members, colleagues, houses of worship, and local businesses to keep the doors of Anchor House open. The money raised from the ride comprises more than a third of the non-profit’s annual budget. Last year the ride raised a record $600,000.
The Anchor House cyclists, who have each logged in hundreds of training miles over the last several months, gathered at Hopewell Valley High School tonight and loaded their bikes on a truck headed for Virginia. The cyclists will travel to start of the ride by bus Saturday, departing from Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton at 8:30 a.m. after a public farewell ceremony.
On Sunday they will begin the 500-mile journey back from Lexington, Va. to the Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrence, making stops in Harrisonburg, Va. and Winchester, Va. before heading to Maryland, where they will visit Hagerstown and Westminster before pedaling to Lancaster, Pa. and Lansdale, Pa. They will bike to Hopewell and then ride to the Quaker Bridge Mall for a victory celebration on Saturday, July 19 at 3 p.m. in the center court of the mall.
Route coordinator Brian McLaughlin said the cyclists will enjoy country roads in the scenic Shenandoah Valley the first few days.
“Country roads mean more hills, but they also mean less cars,” McLaughlin said. “The first two days will be the longest, but each day is challenging in its own way. The difficulty each day also depends on the individual cyclist, as well as the weather conditions.”
A committee of more than a dozen volunteers begins planning for the annual ride each September, working over several months to coordinate the logistics of housing, feeding and keeping track of almost 200 cyclists.
“It’s like a little moving town going down the road each day,” Anchor House Ride Co-Chair Julia Obetz of Ewing said. “It takes a lot of volunteers joining together to make it happen, including an amazing support crew of more than 30 people who help the cyclists all week.”
Thornton said the ride experience takes on a life of its own.
“The ride is about people taking care of each other,” he said. “I wish the kids at Anchor House could see it and experience it. Those same principles apply at Anchor House. It’s about caring and helping.”
Reporter Krystal Knapp is a participant in the 36th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways. This is her 11th Anchor House ride. For more information about Anchor House or to make a donation, visit www.anchorhouseride.org, call (609) 278-9495, or send a check to the Anchor House Foundation, P.O. Box 2357, Trenton, NJ, 08607-2357.