The enthusiasm could not be contained as Birchwood students eagerly line up, anxiously awaiting the cyclists' arrival. Holding hand-made signs of encouragement, the kids fill the sidewalk in front of Birchwood Elementary and practice their cheers in anticipation of the bikers. As the parade of bicycles floats down the driveway there is a roar of excitement, signs fly into the air, applause erupts, and smiles beam.
Second grade teacher Lisa Luyckx waves as she rides past her students as part of the brigade to raise awareness for missing children. This is her third year participating in the Ride for Missing Children and the second year the ride has stopped at Birchwood.
"Overall the day is extremely powerful and emotional. It's an unbelievable feeling to ride into the sea of cheering kids at Birchwood and know the positive effect I'm having on the students here. I think the fact that one of their teachers is actually in the ride heightens both their awareness and their excitement" says Lyuckx.
Before the big event, students got a lesson in safety put on by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The focus, staying safe from strangers and using safe bike riding rules. Cyclists further encourage these lessons, handing out stickers and pencils, asking questions, and showing off their own bike safety measures.
"The kids are the reason we ride - to keep children safeâ€¦one child at a time. If we can teach kids safety rules in a way that emphasizes fitness and fun they're more likely to remember the rules and practice them."
While the students at Birchwood are very vocal in their support, the PTO and Mrs. Weir in the kitchen show their support in a quieter manner: providing the riders with breakfast sandwiches, making sure each rider has something to eat to help fuel their 100 mile ride through the Capital Region.
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