By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Eight cyclists on a cross-country ride to promote programs that support children with special needs stopped Monday in San Jon as part of their 3,100-mile trek from San Diego to New York City.
The riders are participating in the Bike 4 Friendship sponsored by Investors Bank. The ride promotes the mission of Friendship Circle International, an organization that connects teenage volunteers with children, teens, and young adults with special needs to foster a sense of companionship and community. The program’s activities also build social, recreational, and educational skills for young people with special needs — skills that cannot be attained through traditional therapies.
During the six-week ride, the riders will bike approximately 90 miles each day through 15 states, making official stops in 40 cities to meet with members of the community and spread their message. They will also visit several Friendship Circle chapters along the way.
Currently the riders are in their third week that will take them from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City. On Monday they rode from Santa Rosa to San Jon where they met with members of the community and Village Mayor Billie Jo Barnes.
“I think it is wonderful what these young men are doing,” Barnes said. “Its so uplifting to see young men getting out to support a cause that benefits special needs children.”
Barnes said the riders were curious about the history of San Jon and Quay County.
“This is my first year riding cross-country and it has been amazing, I have had the chance to meet a lot of great people along the way so far,” said Mendy Rapoport.
Rapoport said while the trip is long and trying, the real heroes are teens who take the time to form a friendship with a special needs child.
“All children need friends,” Rapoport said. “I’m riding cross country to support that notion and this organization that is dedicated to making sure special needs children have those friends and provides them with numerous activities and levels of support.”
This was the second year for the riders to stop in San Jon as part of their cross-country ride and the second year that Brandon Downing, a local child who has Down syndrome, has greeted them. The riders presented Downing with a gift of appreciation, an exercise ball with a smiley face, for his continued support.
“Thank you for the gift,” Downing said.
The riders, who range in age from 17 to 28, seek to enhance awareness and understanding of the unique gifts of those with special needs.
The ride helps to raise money to support the Friendship Circle. The organization has more than 80 chapters worldwide. Since its inception in 1995, the organization has cultivated friendships between 5,000 special children and nearly 11,000 teen volunteers.
More information about the Friendship Circle and how to donate to the organization is available at www.FriendshipCircle.com.