Riding past the fertile plains of the American Midwest in August, the cyclists of the “Race to Respond” won’t have a hard time imagining the plowed fields of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the rocky, irrigated soil of Palestine or the monastery farms of Ethiopia.
Their goal in riding 3,500 miles in 25 days is to raise awareness and support for the people served by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) in places such as Bosnia, the West Bank and Ethiopia.
After nearly two years of planning and training, IOCC’s “Race to Respond” will depart from the New Jersey shore on Saturday, Aug. 3. The cycling team, made up of five Orthodox Christians, joins thousands of volunteers and donors who, in the past 10 years, have made it possible for IOCC to extend assistance to impoverished communities around the world.
IOCC will provide daily updates on the Race, including articles, journal entries and pictures, on the Race Web site, www.racetorespond.org, where people may also donate on-line.
As the cyclists “race” across the country, their mission is to highlight IOCC’s own “race” to respond to the needs of people suffering from natural disaster, famine and civil unrest. Along the way, they will make about 30 stops - at Orthodox churches and other locations - to give presentations about IOCC’s humanitarian mission.
The Race kickoff ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Beach Park in Keyport, N.J. Keyport borough officials and Orthodox clergy from New Jersey will be among those in attendance. The ceremony also will include special music and a proclamation reading.
From the park, the five cyclists will get a police escort to Kimisis Tis Theotokou (Dormition of the Theotokos) Greek Orthodox Church in Holmdel, N.J., where, at 7 p.m., there will be a prayer service and reception.
The cyclists will depart from Keyport at 6 a.m. Saturday. On Day 1, they will cover central New Jersey, cross the Delaware River at Washington Crossing, pass north of Philadelphia and end in Morgantown, Pa., riding an estimated 127 miles.
An event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lancaster, Pa.
Race team members are: Jim Angelus, 45, of Hopewell, N.J.; Constantine “Dino” Davlantis, 30, of Oak Lawn, Ill.; Konstantin Kanelis, 35, of Munich, Germany; Alex Mazarakos, 27, of Burbank, Ill.; and Michael Tsakalos, 26, of Phoenix, Md.
They will be accompanied by support personnel, IOCC staff members and three support vehicles.
The Race is presented by Advantage Plus Inc., a nutritional supplement company based in Tampa, Fla. Other sponsors include Light Street Cycles in Baltimore, Md., The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer newspaper, Marcus & Millichap, a real estate investment brokerage company, and Rocky Mountain Orthodox Christian Charities and Missions, Inc.
In just 10 years, IOCC, the official humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians, has provided more than $140 million in relief and development programs to suffering people in 21 countries. IOCC’s goal for the “Race to Respond” is to raise $250,000, which will go to support programs assisting impoverished communities around the world.