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Ride Allegheny takes break in Yough River Park

| Friday, Oct. 7, 2011

A group of 33 bicyclists left Homewood Thursday morning headed south on the Great Allegheny Passage to enjoy the scenery, the beautiful weather, the exercise and camaraderie all for a noble cause.

Ride Allegheny will cycle for more than 300 miles in four days to raise money for Operation Second Chance, which provides services for veterans recovering from injuries, including taking them to sporting events. In addition to direct services to veterans, Operation Second Chance provides money to veterans' families to enable them to travel to visit their loved ones and provides housing assistance and tends to other needs.

The bikers stopped for an afternoon break in Yough River Park, on their way to Ohiopyle for a night's rest before continuing the ride into Maryland.

Members of the Yough River Trail Council, American Legion Post 301 and the Trail Town Outreach Corps greeted the riders with fruit, water and other snacks. "It's nice to have these receptions in these communities and share with them," said Walt Ellenberger, of Gaithersburg, Md., ride chairman.

"We'll pick up 12 more riders in Cumberland, Md., where we'll take the C&O Towpath for two days and end with a big picnic with riders and veterans in Gaithersburg," said co-chairman Clark Wagner of Gaithersburg.

Wagner said Ride Allegheny started right after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "Then we met up with Operation Second Chance in 2005. This year, so far, we've raised $270,000, and expect another $10,000 to $20,000 in the coming weeks. Everyone raises at least $500 for the ride, up to $20,000. A lot of athletic events have a high overhead, but 95 percent of our donations go to Operation Second Chance."

Ellenberger said, "Always, by design, we've kept it a small group. After the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, we promoted it. Our fundraising is much higher so far. We expect to meet our $150,000 goal by the end of October. Operation Second Chance became an official nonprofit because of our involvement."

This year, Ride Allegheny publicized the ride, and has more than doubled its size and contributions, but the heart of the ride remains the same. "We are guys who appreciate the cause and support the heroes of our country," Wagner said.

"It's a lot of fun, a lot of good friends and a meaningful cause," Ellenberger said. "There's a high probability this will expand. We're hoping to pick up anyone who wants to hop on board."

Kim Warpinski, of Annapolis, Maryland, has joined the Allegheny Riders for the first time. "This is my first long bike ride," she said. "I work for the nonprofit World Team Sports, which develops adaptive team sports for the disabled. This ride would be good, but the access roads for vehicles are rare along the trail, but it's completely doable. We have a coast-to-coast bike ride. So far this ride is great. It's beautiful. We want to work with Ride Allegheny because the ride is getting bigger. If we can make it work with them, we'll do it," Warpinski said.

Another first-time rider has been enjoying the scenery and the companionship.

Phil Fabrizio, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, rode and worked. "I'm a photographer for 'The Town Courier' in Gaithersburg. I'm participating and taking photos. This is my first time riding. I broke my foot and couldn't run in the Marine Corps marathon, but I could ride. It's a very friendly group, that developed from a small core. The ride has expanded. They're trying their best to keep us together. I've never ridden for days before. The Great Allegheny Passage is great," Fabrizio said.

Dale Bryner, second vice commander of the Home Association of Connellsville's American Legion Post 301 said, "We had a meeting Tuesday and they wanted volunteers to help today. This is our first time. We'll be back if they ask us."

David Haggerty, Post 301 board of directors, said, "We brought water and fruit. That's what we were told bikers need. It was good to see so many of them out to help veterans."

Tax-deductible donations may be made to Operation Second Chance by clicking here .

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