RIDING TO HELP HOMELESS Children have fun, raise $2,500 NORTH COUNTY--Linthicum * Ferndale * Brooklyn Park * Pumphrey


Bathed in the sunshine of a spring day just made for children at play, they squealed on their tricycles, scooters and skates and waved to their parents.

But this wasn't playtime for the 3- and 4-year-olds. It was a time to count their blessings and think of other children who have no toys, no decent clothes, no home.

Friday, 80 children who attend Linthicum YWCA Preschool at Linthicum Heights United Methodist Church did just that -- and wheeled around a makeshift track enough times to raise $2,500. Of that, half will go to the preschool, and half will buy toys, books and clothing for homeless children in Baltimore.

To most of the youngsters, the annual Wheel-A-Thon meant pure fun, a chance to bring bicycles, "big wheels" and toy baby strollers to school and ride or walk laps, to the delight of cheering parents.

But for preschool director Brenda Stephens, the fund-raiser ties in nicely with lessons she tries to instill in her pupils.

"We try to explain that not everyone is able to come to a school like ours, not everyone has nice clothing or toys, not everyone has money or a home," Mrs. Stephens said. "We try and raise money so other children have the same things we have."

Betty Bloomfield explained to her daughters, Kristen, 4, and Joanna, 3, that they would be raising money to help other children. Sponsors either pledged a set amount per lap or a single amount.

"We talked about children who didn't have the things these children have," Mrs. Bloomfield said. The girls then were able to convey that to family members and friends who sponsored them.

"We're raising money for . . .," Mrs. Bloomfield said, prompting Kristen to finish, ". . . for the poor children with no clothes and no food."

Children rode laps for 15-minute intervals on a track marked with cones on the church parking lot. The preschoolers wore colorful Easter bonnets or helmets and rode bikes decorated with streamers and balloons.

Lacey Hemmings, 4, skated by. L. T. DeGraw, 3, towed a teddy bear in a wagon. Alexander Daya, 4, sat back and enjoyed the ride on his battery-operated Honda.

Sherri Fisher of Linthicum said her daughter, Rachel, 4, got excited about raising money through a Wheel-A-Thon because Mrs. Fisher leads "aerobithons," aerobics fund-raisers for the American Heart Association.

Alycia Mordan, 3, of Linthicum, pushed a doll and two stuffed Dalmatian puppies in a pink stroller.

"She has a beautiful home full of everything," said her mother, Barbara Mordan. "I can't imagine having a little child and not having that. It's a cold reality to think of people who live so close to us who don't have homes."

Money raised will go to the Homeless Children and Families Project, sponsored by a Baltimore-based coalition of agencies including the YWCA, which helps families in several homeless shelters find housing and adapt to their communities.

Caseworkers and volunteer mentors help the families with anything from preparing budgets to parenting, said Susan Corden, director of volunteer services for the YWCA of Baltimore.

In the past two years, the project has helped more than 150 families, Ms. Corden said.

Wheel-A-Thon money will pay for clothing, books, toys, tables, chairs, pots and pans, "things that can help a family feel settled in their home, basic necessities that can enrich their lives," she said.

"It's a very sweet gesture and a neat concept to have kids helping kids," Ms. Corden said. "They are benefiting and helping kids much less fortunate than they are."

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