When the week-long Anchor House Ride for Runaways comes to an end, the hardest part isn’t dealing with the aching muscles and other sore body parts. The toughest part is saying goodbye to all the friends you’ve made and relationships you’ve renewed during the week together on the road.
“It’s a group of people from all walks of life, joined together for a single cause, to help kids,” said Kilani Digiacomo of Lawrenceville. “You are all going thorough the same things. You become like brethren.”
Digiacomo biked the 500 miles from Lexington, Va. to Lawrence with her brother, Mark Fonte, who came all the way from Orange County, California to join his little sister on the ride.
“It’s the most time we’ve spent together since we were children,” Digiacomo said. “I’m so proud of my brother. It was not easy, but I knew he could do it. I’m just grateful we could do the ride together.”
Fonte said the ride was harder than he thought it would be.
“The hills were the worst part,” he said. “I liked the downhills though.”
While the hills were challenging all week, the cyclists enjoyed moderate temperatures most of the week, and met welcoming people along the route. Churches and firehouses let Anchor House use their facilities for rest stops. Members form some of the churches went the extra mile, also feeding the cyclists, and one Sunday school group donated $200 after their pastor explained to the children how Anchor House helps kids in need.
After pedaling the final 63 miles of the ride Saturday from Lansdale, Pa to Lawrence, the 183 cyclists and 31 support crew members arrived at the Quaker Bridge Mall, welcomed with banners and cheers as the theme from the movie Rocky blared in the center court of the mall.
Anchor House Foundation President John Murray then informed the participants that their efforts have raised more than $517,000 so far this year.
“I gave you a challenge, and you didn’t disappoint!” Murray said.
The dollar figure for the 36th annual ride is slightly above the amount the ride raised at this point in 2013, meaning this year could be another record-breaking fundraising year for the Ride for Runaways. Donations will continue to pour in for several weeks. Last year the ride raised more than $600,000.
The Ride for Runaways raises more than a third of the money needed each year to operate Anchor House, the Trenton-based non-profit serving abused and runaway children and teens. At the ride banquet on Friday night, a college student and a teen spoke to the participants and told them what Anchor House has meant to them.
The teen described how he was homeless and had nowhere to turn until he found out about Anchor House in the internet. The student recalled how she was flunking out of school because she was in an abusive home environment where she could not concentrate on school work. After she moved to the Anchorage, a transitional living home for teens and young adults, her grade point average was a 3.4. She is now a student at Rutgers University.
“That was the most inspiring part of the week, hearing about the real life impact Anchor House has on kids,” Digiacomo said.
Digiacomo’s brother was one of several people who made the trip from states other than New Jersey and Pennsylvania to participate in the ride. Participants travelled from Indiana, Virginia, Delaware, New York, Maryland, Tennessee, and Ohio to be a part of the group.
Bob Stults, a 24-year ride veteran, drove all the way from Dayton, Ohio to Virginia before the ride started, only to find out shortly after he arrived that his basement had flooded. He drove back to Ohio to take care of the problem, then turned around and drove all the way back to rejoin the ride. That might sound crazy to some, but for Stults it was a no-brainer.
“I had to be here,” he said.
While Stults didn’t want to break his 24-year ride streak, the most important reason he wanted to complete the ride was to honor the memory of his riding partner, Rick Tofani, who died after he had a heart attack last fall. The two participated in the ride together each year as part of a group called Team Silly.
“I had to be here because Rick wasn’t here with us,” Stults said. “I rode for him.”
“I’ll see you all again next year,” he said, as he prepared for the drive home.
Reporter Krystal Knapp is a cyclist in the 36th annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways. For more information about Anchor House or to make a donation, visit www.anchorhouseride.org, where you can also make online donations in a cyclist’s name. Donations can also be sent to the Anchor House Foundation, P.O. Box 2357, Trenton, NJ 08607-2357.