Updated 05/18/2012 04:12 PM
Riders spread message of safety along their journey
Bicyclists in the 16th annual Ride for Missing Children covered nearly 100 miles of ground in Madison, Oneida and Herkimer counties Friday. Sarah Blazonis tells us why the stops they made along the way were just as important as the ride itself.
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WESTMORELAND, N.Y. -- How's this for encouragement? Hundreds of Westmoreland Middle School students lined up with posters, noise makers and plenty of cheers. They greeted the 480 bicyclists in this year's Ride for Missing Children as they pulled into the school for their first break.
"Really overwhelming. The whole morning has been overwhelming," said Mary Houck, a teacher with the Oneida City School District and first-time rider.
The stop was a chance to pause and fuel up with snacks and drinks.
"I feel great. This has been great so far, from the training rides to being here today. Just being a part of this big family, it's been great," said Chris Hawthorne, another rider and Oneida teacher.
But the pit stops weren't just breaks. Riders mingled with students, handing out these stickers and talking to them about ways they can keep themselves safe. Tips focused on personal safety.
"If you're alone somewhere, be cautious. Don't talk to strangers and stuff. That's the worst thing to do is talk to strangers when you're alone, because they might take you," said eighth grader Tyler Stewart on what he learned from riders.
"It helps us to learn which one is right and which one is wrong, like to learn who's good and who's bad," said eighth grader Mikayla Gadz.
And on staying safe while using technology, something officials with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Mohawk Valley Office they're seeing predators use more and more often to lure victims.
"Do not trust, no matter what, the person on the other end of that computer screen or on the cell phone, and always make sure someone knows what you're doing," said Wendy Fical, program director with the center.
After just half an hour, riders were back on their bikes and ready to hit the road. Their route took them past 17 schools, some with stops like that at Westmoreland. While their time there may be brief, the hope is that students will carry their lessons with them for years to come.