Bicyclists pedal in to Westminster during 500-mile charity ride

The Best Western in Westminster saw a different crowd than usual Wednesday, as 185 bicyclists, along with 30 support team members, descended on the hotel in the midst of a 500-mile charity ride.

The Anchor House Ride for Runaways, now in its 36th year, raises money for the at-risk or homeless youth helped by Anchor House, a social services agency in Trenton, New Jersey. This year's course travels from Lexington, Virginia, to Lawrenceville, New Jersey, with stops along the way that included Westminster.


On Wednesday, the group rode 56 miles from Hagerstown to Westminster, a relatively short ride compared to other days, said sixth-year Ride for Runaways cyclist Kate Grant. They will depart Thursday morning for Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a 66-mile ride.

"It was a beautiful ride today. You couldn't ask for better weather, better hills or — most importantly — better downhills," Grant said, lounging in the lobby of the Best Western after arriving at their overnight destination. "There's nothing better after working hard on hills to be rewarded with some awesome downhills."

Grant first heard about the charity ride from a friend and signed up for the challenge of cycling 500 miles in a week.

But since her initial ride, she said, it gradually stopped being all about challenging herself and became about the children the cyclists helped in the local community.

Last year, the ride boasted close to 200 riders and 40 support team members, and raised more than $600,000 for Anchor House, Grant said.

Anchor House relies on the Ride for Runaways as its largest fundraiser, she said. The runaway shelter was founded in 1978 and offers an emergency living shelter, transitional living facility, supervised apartment living program, street outreach programs and counseling services, according to a press release.

"The money we raise really helps the kids in that area," said Grant, who works in a hospital near Trenton. "It's a tough place to grow up in, to be a kid in. I know the money really goes to a good cause."

Another sixth-year participant in the ride, Joe Ferrao, initially joined the group of cyclists after seeing a participant banner in a local brewery while on a different group ride. Out of curiosity, he signed up.

He's returned over the years, he said, because the ride is well-organized, the people are great and the ride allows him to couple his love of cycling with his love of charity work. It was both his first and only week-long ride despite his participation in many other, shorter charity rides, including for diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

The trip into Westminster from Hagerstown was beautiful, Ferrao said.

"It had a little bit of everything: quiet roads, babbling creeks, farmland, cows, horses, scenery," Ferrao said. "It was a dream ride."