Erik Dalton was all smiles as he completed the last 56 miles of the Anchor House Ride for Runaways. Instead of thinking about sore muscles and tired legs, he was already planning his return next year.
“It was just great. I will definitely be back,” Dalton, a Bordentown resident, said after finishing his first Ride for Runaways. “I did it to support the cause. It was all I expected, but so much more. I learned that the ride is like one big family for a week. Next year I want to bring another buddy along who would just love the spirit of the ride.”
The 500-mile, week-long Anchor House Ride for Runaways raises money to help keep the doors open at Anchor House, the Trenton-based shelter in Mercer County for abused, neglected and runaway kids and teens.
When the 173 Anchor House cyclists and 36 support crew members arrived at the Quaker Bridge Mall for a final ride celebration Saturday afternoon, they learned that their cycling efforts over the past week have raised $466,000 so far. They cyclists and support members will continue to collect donations for several weeks.
The cyclists began their journey in Oswego, New York last Sunday, making stops in Geneva and Corning before entering Pennsylvania. They stopped in Wellsboro, Williamsport, Hazleton and Bethlehem before entering New Jersey Saturday morning.
After six days of mild temperatures and good weather, the final leg of the 500-mile journey began with thunderstorms early Saturday morning. More than a dozen cyclists who got an early start sought shelter after the rain began to pour and lightning struck. They took shelter in barns, garages, a train station and a nail salon and waited out the storm. Meanwhile, the rest of the cyclists waited until about 9 a.m. to start riding.
The Rev. Mike Burns of Bordentown said he and riding partner Steve Czelusniak of Ewing were three miles from the first rest stop for the day when the rain started.
“It was pouring and we were looking for anything — a garage, anything — and four of us finally found a barn,” Burns said. “There was lightning all around us. It was scary how close it was.”
Cyclists Rick Squires of Robbinsville and Tom Imbrigiotta of Pennington took shelter in an old train station for 20 minutes.
“Then we got on our bikes and rode again,” Squires said. “But we caught up with the storm and had to take shelter a second time in front of a store.”
The cyclists gathered at the home of Dorothy Dutko in Pennington for a picnic before biking the final 10 miles to the mall. The Dutko family and some of their friends have been hosting a picnic for the riders for almost as many years as the ride has been in existence.
“I just love seeing the cyclists bike in on the last day and head out to the mall at the end,” Dutko said. “It’s great to be a part of it.”
Veteran rider Mark Garbarini of Dunellen didn’t want the week to end.
“It’s sad that it is over,” he said. “It’s such a great week because of the people.”
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.