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Homeless youth benefit from 500 mile local charity bike ride

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Anchor House support staff member Felix Green rides 68.3 miles through Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland to Hagerstown, Md during the 2011 Ride for Runaways. Photo courtesy of Martin Griff.

“It’s hard when you are cold and don’t have a place to sleep at night and know you can’t go home,” said Felix Green, outreach counselor at Anchor House, an organization that has been helping homeless and at risk youth and their families since 1978.

Prior to calling Anchor House his employer, Green called it his haven. As a youth, he was not able to live with his parents or count on them for support. According to Green, he spent time in two out of the five Anchor House programs: The Anchor Link, which is a street outreach program for ages 18-21, and The Anchorage, a housing program for young adults.

“It was hard,” said Green. “How do you trust strangers when you can’t even trust your own family?”

After making it through the Anchor House programs, Green’s counselors thought he would be a perfect addition to their staff and encouraged him to apply. He has been a live-in counselor at the Anchor House for seven years now.

Along with counseling, Green also participates in the Ride for Runaways, a seven-day, 500 mile bike ride that raises money for the Anchor House.

This year’s application for the Ride for Runaways shows that all participants are required to pay a 100 dollar application fee and raise a minimum of 750 dollars in pledges. Kathy Druils, the ride coordinator, said 70 percent of the proceeds go to the Anchor House, and the remaining 30 percent covers the costs needed to organize the ride, which includes hotels, equipment costs and transportation.

When asked if he thought the Anchor House benefited from the ride Green said, “A whole lot. Money is one thing, but it also brings awareness to the House itself.”

Green began as support staff for the ride, making sure everyone stayed hydrated, assisting with supplies and even luggage. For the last two years he rode in the fundraiser himself. According to Green, to get him started, the other riders helped him get a bike and train for the ride. “They not only helped me during the race but year-round,” said Green.

To get ready for this year’s race, which will start in July, Green said he will begin training mid-March when the weather is a little warmer. He will build his stamina by riding his bike 20 miles a day during the weekends to build up to the 50 miles a day he will have to do once the fundraiser begins.

While riding, he only thinks about five miles at a time so he doesn’t get overwhelmed. Green will also have to get used to riding among obstacles again such as traffic, people and open car doors. Last year while riding he reached speeds of 50 mph while other riders have made it to about 53 mph.

“It can be dangerous,” said Green, “which is why I always train with other riders, because anything could happen.” Along with training Green will also make a few purchases to prepare for the event such as new shoe clips, tubes for his tires, a tool kit in case he needs to fix his bike along the ride, gloves, shades, and of course, a few new bike outfits.

When asked how he felt after completing last year’s ride Green said though it was intense, he felt accomplished.

“As a youth many challenges were put in front of me that were out of my will, so this was a challenge I did for myself,” said Green.

According to the Ride for Runaways website, applications have already gone out for this year’s 34th ride and will no longer be accepted after March 9. The ride will start on Saturday, July 7, 2012, in Staunton, Va. and finish in Trenton, NJ where the Anchor House is located.

“There are usually 175 to 200 participants, most of which are regulars,” said Drulis. Due to the length of the trip they try not to exceed 200 riders to keep things organized.

“The fundraiser continues to raise funds well over anyone’s imagination,” said Drulis. According to an article written by Krystal Knapp from The Times, the cyclists raised 410,000 dollars from last year’s ride.

Mercer Sophomore and Communications major Vitoria Lorenzetti, also a member of the Mercer women’s cross county team, said hearing about the Ride for Runaways fundraiser was inspiring; if she had the money, Lorenzetti said she would love to participate.

“I love helping people,” said Lorenzetti. “I especially love helping children. When you help others, not only do they feel good, but you do as well.”

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