Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — When first-grade teacher Michelle Glica began training for the 100-mile bike Ride for Missing Children, she thought of it as a personal endeavor that would challenge her physically — but her perspective changed drastically after she met with the riders and heard from parents of lost children.
“I realized I’m doing so much more,” Glica said Friday during a break from the ride at Hamilton Elementary School, where she was surrounded by her students. “All the money goes to people who are looking for their children, and to find ways to prevent those cases.”
Glica and 124 other cyclists took part in the event, which raises money for the local chapter of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The bikers are escorted by local law enforcement and ride in pairs to teach children to never go anywhere alone. Many participants wore age-progressed images of missing children on their backs.
The route stretched from Getzville to Clarence, Williamsville, Lockport, Niagara Falls, the Tonawandas, Buffalo and back to Getzville. Along the route, riders and law enforcement stopped at four schools to include the kids and enhance the center’s prevention efforts.
“The stops at the schools really reinforce the message with the kids,” Kathy Gust, a program director with the center, said. “Our mascot, Clicky, is out there singing and dancing with the kids, telling them to check with their parents before going anywhere and to always bring a buddy.”
The funds raised by the ride go toward local efforts, including prevention presentations for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, who are taught safety measures in the real world and online. The center also holds sessions for law enforcement and parents.
This year’s event marked the eighth ride in Buffalo, with similar rides taking place in Utica, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. The first ride occurred in 1995, when a team of cyclists biked from Central New York to Washington, D.C., to promote awareness about missing children.