Cyclists reach out to special-needs children, teens

By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor


QCS photo: Steve Hansen
The Friendship Circle riders bond with San Jon’s Mayor for a Day Brandon Downing in San Jon’s Village Hall. From left: Zion Giahn of Queens, NY; Yitzy Smith of Brooklyn, NY; Menachem Korf of Miami Beach, Fla; Downing; Menachem Myers of Bratislava, Slovakia; and Yaakov Hawk, of Woodmire, Long Island, NY.

Rain delayed their arrival, but when the cyclists of the Friendship Circle arrived in San Jon Monday, five of them participated in ceremonies that recognized their effort and their mission, to be companions to special-needs teens and children.

Brandon Downing, who has Down syndrome, was made honorary mayor of San Jon for a day, and he handed ceremonial keys to the Village of San Jon to each of the cyclists who attended the ceremony.

San Jon’s Mayor Billie Jo Barnes presided over the informal ceremony at San Jon Village Hall, which occurred at 7 p.m. rather than 6 p.m., after all 15 of the Friendship Circle riders had trickled in to San Jon and were guided to the San Jon High School gym.

They spent the night in the gym before resuming their cross-country ride on Tuesday morning. Next stop, Amarillo.

They started their ride in San Diego, Calif., on June 12 and hope to end it in New York, N.Y. on Aug. 11.

The cyclists spent an hour huddled in the upper reaches of an overpass on I-40 during Monday’s rain, which delayed their arrival in San Jon from their start earlier in Santa Rosa, Yaakov Hawk, of Long Island, N.Y., said.

The ride, he said, is teaching them to meet obstacles and overcome them.

“For every obstacle you meet,” he said, “there is a reason you have it and a way to overcome it.”

So far, he said, “we’ve seen amazing things.”

In Santa Rosa, the previous day, he said, the riders marveled at the Blue Hole, an 80-foot-deep blue-water formation fed by artesian springs.

The purpose of the ride, he said, is fund-raising. The ride has raised $100,000 of the $150,000 the riders have set as their goal, rider Yitzy Smith of Brooklyn, N.Y., said.

The Friendship Circle is a Jewish organization that offers companionship for children with special needs, according to its website. The international organization has cultivated friendships between 5,000 special children and close to 11,000 teen volunteers, the Friendship Circle’s website stated.

Potential donors can visit the website and go to the “Get Involved” link at the top of the page.

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