Msgr. Richard L. Tofani, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport, and director of the diocesan Office of Missions, may have summed it up best when he referred to this year’s Anchor House Ride for Runaways as an “emotional roller coaster ride for the entire Anchor House family.”
Msgr. Tofani pointed out “the feelings of gratitude and joy” among the 173 participating bikers and 30 support staff, and “sense of accomplishment” over the completion of a 500-mile bicycle ride that seeks to raise funds for the organization which provides an array of services to help runaway, homeless, abused and at-risk youth.
However, that shared feeling of jubilance quickly turned to shock and grief on the last day of the ride when it was learned that 16-year veteran Anchor House rider, Doug McCune, had been killed when he collided with a sport-utility vehicle in Clinton Township. The bikers at the time were en route to their final destination of Quaker Bridge Mall, Lawrenceville.
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“This is the second tragic death of an Anchor House rider on the final day of the annual ride,” said Msgr. Tofani, as he recalled when 16-year-old Cory Golis was struck and killed by a vehicle in 1998.
Anchor House, which was founded 33 years ago and has long enjoyed strong support from the parishes and people of the diocese, is probably best known for its 24-hour shelter, which is currently housed in the former Sts. Peter and Paul Parish convent on Centre Street, Trenton. However, the range of other services the agency provides include: a transitional housing program called Anchorage for young people, 18 to 21 years old; Angels Wings, a temporary respite program that cares for newborns to children up to age 12; Anchor Line, a housing-apartment program that provides 18 to 21 year olds with supportive services they need to become successful adults, and the Anchor Link Outreach.
Giving a tally of the agency’s statistics from 2010, Kim McNear, executive director, said that the shelter housed 98 youths; the Angels Wings community home helped 45 children; the school outreach program provided 173 counseling sessions; the Anchorage served as a haven to 19 young adults; Anchor Line assisted seven youths; the street outreach aided 38 youths to obtain housing and prevent homelessness. In addition, Anchor House distributed more than 10,000 products including hygiene items, clothing and food, and provided 1,200 transportation services to job interviews and housing searches.
McNear said the Ride for Runaways has been the agency’s major fundraiser, and all riders are expected to raise a minimum of $750 in pledges. This year’s ride brought in about $475,000 but the amount is expected to increase.
Eighteen-year veteran rider, Janet Gregorovic, a member of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, first became involved in the ride after learning about the work of Anchor House through stories she had read in a local newspaper and announcements in her parish bulletin.
“I wanted to help the kids,” she said. With that, she decided to go from being a “casual bike rider” to the discipline of rigorous training for the 500-mile ride.
“Then I found out what it was really like to be a biker,” she quipped.
“But I’ve met some really great people” over the years, she said.
Msgr. Tofani, who is one of a number of clergy from the diocese to participate in the ride for many years along with Father Michael Burns, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Bordentown, and Deacon Dick Currie of St. James Parish, Pennington, recalled the invitation he received to join the ride from fellow biker, Tom Csapo, 19 years ago.
Being that Csapo’s wife, Gail, was a secretary in the Missions Office at the time, Csapo was familiar with how the Missions Office worked on behalf of the Holy Childhood Association which helps children living in the developing world.
“Then Tom asked me if there was anything I could do to help children who are in need locally,” Msgr. Tofani said, and “he suggested I contact Anchor House.”
Msgr. Tofani has been riding ever since.
“For the past 25 years, I have had the tremendous privilege of serving those in greatest need globally through my ministry in the diocesan Office of Missions,” Msgr. Tofani said, and “my association with Anchor House these past 19 years has afforded me a wonderful opportunity to be of service to very needy individuals on the local level.”
Reflecting on this year’s tragedy, Msgr. Tofani said he knew Mr. McCune for 16 years.
“Doug was a quiet, friendly individual who was extremely dedicated to the Anchor House cause and very committed to the annual Ride for Runaways,” Msgr. Tofani said. “I believe the best way the other Anchor House riders and I can honor Doug’s memory is to keep riding and continue promoting the cause of Anchor House.”
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