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" This is an opportunity for people ... [to] get out there and walk or ride. We want it to be something people can strive for.  " Kathy Drulis
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to financial setbacks for individuals and businesses alike, including community nonprofits and those who contribute.

That has not stopped Kathy Drulis from thinking outside the box in organizing this year’s Anchor House Virtual Ride for Runaways, which has long benefited from Catholic faithful’s support.

Drulis, who worships in St. James Parish, Pennington, has morphed the organization’s annual seven-day, 500-mile bike ride into a virtual event this year due to social distancing restrictions. Anchor House is a Trenton-based nonprofit that helps abused, homeless, aging-out and at-risk youth and their families.

“This year’s virtual format encourages people who maybe don’t think they can ride 500 miles,” said Drulis, who has organized the event since the early 1990s. “We usually asked them [riders] to raise $750 for a weeklong ride, but this year, we want people to know whatever they do is wonderful.”

For the ride, which is in its 42nd year, participants are being asked to cycle 250 or 500 miles – or walk 100 miles – from July 11 through Aug. 22, and to garner donations for their efforts. Participants can set their own contribution goals.

“This is an opportunity for people who are looking for stuff to do [to] get out there and walk or ride,” said Drulis, Anchor House’s chief operating officer. “We want it to be something people can strive for. To ride 250 or 500 miles is quite an accomplishment. To walk 100 miles in a six-week period is pretty good dedication.”

For decades, Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Trenton have been among Anchor House’s supporters and bike ride participants. Msgr. Michael J. Walsh – pastor of St. James Parish, as well as St. George Parish, Titusville, and St. Alphonsus Parish, Hopewell – cycled in the event in the 1980s. In recent years, St. James Church was the staging area for returning bikers prior to their final stretch to the nearby Quakerbridge Mall.

“The young people that Anchor House supports are very vulnerable in all kind of ways,” noted Msgr. Walsh. “Part of the … support system around the Anchor House ride was the consistent contribution of the churches.”

Drulis, whose husband teaches baseball at Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, lauded the Catholic faithful from around the Diocese for their support of Anchor House, saying, “We’ve been offered to speak at area churches to get parishioners excited about it, and they love to take part.”

Msgr. Walsh says it’s a worthy cause to aid an outfit that helps at-risk young people build a support system and gain life skills needed to be successful. And while charitable donations have decreased in numerous areas due to the virus, he feels there is a duty that comes from being Catholic to help anyone in need, when possible.

“It’s the very nature of the Gospel,” he  said. “Jesus is always telling us to think honor. In terms of the crisis, who are the needy people who are now in a worse condition because of the fact we have the virus? We have the privilege of the faith. It’s a great privilege to have the grace of belief in your heart, but with it comes responsibility. We have to live that responsibility the best we can.”

He added that those who are still in positions to provide financial help, have done a marvelous job.

“Everybody seems to be hurting a bit these days, but huge amounts of generosity are happening from those who can help,” Msgr. Walsh said. “Those who can are really stepping up to the plate, supporting their churches, the nonprofits and the most vulnerable folks.”