Cross-country bike trip is raising money for Brady Faith Center

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pedal 201 be6645879577da388044789309313764By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor

   Amid all the gear and supplies on avid cyclist Andrew Lunetta’s bike – 70-plus pounds of tent, peanut butter and other necessities – one piece of decoration stood out: a small wooden cut-out of the Brady Faith Center. Strung to the handlebars, the ornament was front and center on May 21 as Lunetta and girlfriend Anna Kozachuk started their 3,200-mile bike ride from Syracuse to Santa Barbara, Calif., a trip they hope will help raise money for the center.

   A cross-country ride is something Lunetta has long wanted to do, inspired by photos and stories of his grandparents’ bike trip from Syracuse to Oregon in 1985. With the end of college upon him — he graduated from Le Moyne College May 20, cum laude and the recipient of three awards for his academics and community service — it seemed the perfect time to finally do it. Turning the ride into a fundraiser, however, was a more recent idea.

   “Being involved at Brady has made me want to help this place, so I thought at the very least we could raise some money,” Lunetta said.

   Lunetta began volunteering at Brady in January 2011 after a conversation at the Oxford Street Inn men’s shelter, where he works part-time.

   “A staff member and I were talking about how we could better serve the guys and figure out what was lacking,” he said. “We realized it was health, community and connection. Things that a lot of people take for granted are completely absent among the homeless.”

    A friend introduced him to Kevin Frank, executive director at Brady, and Lunetta soon started a men’s drop-in program at the center. By March, it had evolved into a bike-riding program.

   Pedal to Possibilities, as the program is now known, brings homeless men and women together three mornings a week for an 8- to 10-mile bike ride through and around the city. When a rider completes 10 rides with Lunetta, he or she “graduates” and gets to keep the bike, along with a helmet and a bike lock.

   “On a practical level, having a means of transportation other than walking is incredibly important for the homeless,” said Lunetta. “But more important, I saw it as a really good gateway to a healthy community and a healthier lifestyle.”

   To date, 72 riders have graduated from the program; a similar program led by Kozachuk in Rochester has graduated five riders. Once funded out of Lunetta’s pocket, a Gifford Foundation grant and donations from churches and individuals are now helping to support the program.

   Juanita, a Syracuse graduate, continues to ride with Lunetta most days. Since joining the group, she’s been able to go off her heart medication. On the days she doesn’t ride, Juanita said, something feels lost.
 

  “Riding is one of the joys of my life,” she said.

    Juanita, other Pedal to Possibilities participants, family members and many well-wishers gathered in the Brady parking lot to see Lunetta and Kozachuk off. Father John Schopfer, pastoral director at the center, offered a heartfelt blessing, and riders lined their bikes up to create an aisle for the pair to pass through. They rolled out of the parking lot, bound for Rochester, to cheers and applause. About a dozen riders accompanied them as far as Jordan.

   The pair aims to ride between 60 and 90 miles a day, a pace that will get them to California in about two months, they estimate. They’ve mapped out a route that will allow them to see family and friends along the way, as well as a few sights like the Grand Canyon. As much as they’re able, they’ll be updating their blog with photos and stories from the road.
 

  “It’s going to be an adventure, for sure,” Lunetta said.

   To donate to Brady and to read about the cross-country trek, visit
www.bikeforbrady.wordpress.com.

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