When Cathy Lunetta checked the odometer in her car it marked 308 extra miles since she had left home. That was the distance that she logged traveling to take part in the 2nd Annual Bike for Brady, a fund-raiser to benefit the Brady Faith Center, an outreach ministry of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse for the South Side.
She is a special education liaison at Broadmeadow Elementary School in Needham, a Boston suburb. She is also a frequent attendant to fund-raising functions in the Northeast.
“I did two charitable events back to back,” she said. “On June 4, I went to the Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl in City Hall Plaza, Boston, and today, June 7, I made it to the Bike for Brady.”
The money donated to Bike for Brady goes to support its programs for South Side neighbors. These programs include its jail ministry, youth basketball clinic, parenting class and educational garden. Also, its boldface-name service: Pedal 2 Possibilities. P2P gives free bicycles, helmets, locks and neon green T-shirts to those in need after they have participated in previously stipulated numbers of rides.
This year’s edition of Bike for Brady featured three options: an 8-Mile Valley ride (“for anyone new to riding”), a 26-mile Marcellus ride (“for people who have riding experience with hills”), and a 52-mile Skaneateles ride (“for people with a good base of miles”), according to the program.
Richard Hezel and Glenn Allen converged into the parking lot of the Brady Center. Allen rode his bike from north of the center; Hezel drove his motor vehicle from east of the center. They didn’t know each other but they have some things in common.
Both are small business owners: Allen is the chairman of Excelsior Solutions, a software development company; Hezel is chairman of Hezel Associates, an education research firm. Both live in the suburbs: Allen in Liverpool; Hezel in Jamesville.
Finally, both chose to tackle the shortest ride. At the registration table, Allen got bib number 097; Hezel got bib number 129, and they were ready to go. The numbers were assigned at random, said Andrew Lunetta, Cathy’s oldest son and an organizer of the event.
Hezel said that he enjoyed the ride on the Creekwalk to Onondaga Lake and then back. He estimated the number of riders to had been 40, a similar number for the 26-mile ride, and 50 for the longest ride.
Allen added that the ride took about an hour.
“We went slowly because we had 10 kids in small bicycles riding with us and we tried to keep the group together by making stops along the way to enable the kids to catch up with the rest of the pack,” he said.
He then complimented the police officers riding with the group. “They did a great job monitoring the safety of the group and stopping vehicular traffic to let us through.”
Not all the participants in the ride were suburbanites. Speaking at a block party after the ride was over, Bob Birchmeyer, a resident of the Valley Drive section of the South Side, said that he undertook the 8-mile ride given that he wasn’t feeling too strong. “My body is sore right now but it’s worth it due to the fact that the funds are going to a good cause on the South Side,” he added.
Participants had to pay $25 to be included in any of the three rides. There were also individual sponsors such as Syracuse New Times journalist Ed Griffin-Nolan and corporate sponsors such as Brown & Brown Empire State, an insurance broker, and ClearPath Diagnostics, a cytopathology practice,. Sponsors had to provide a much larger amount than the registration fee.
Musical duo Mike & Dennis supplied entertainment. “They got hired after the first two bands we had successively booked called to cancel their engagements,” organizer Andrew said. Despite being the third-string band, Mike & Dennis were up to the challenge. To keep the spirit of bonhomie going among the crowd, they performed a vast repertoire of songs from the British Invasion (the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Eric Clapton, etc.), as well as American classics from Chuck Berry, Johnny Rivers, Marshall Tucker Band and others.
But, all of a sudden, the mood changed. During a musical break, Robert Walter, a volunteer at the Brady Center, stepped up to the mic to show a plaque in memoriam of Tim Turner to the audience.
Turner was an active member in two programs of Brady’s ministry: Pedal to Possibilities and the drop-in center, which hosts a variety of people for coffee, board games and general socializing. He used to stay at the Catholic Charities Men’s Shelter at 1074 S. Clinton St. on the South Side. When the weather got warmer a few months ago, Turner left the shelter to live outdoors. He was usually seen descending into the western bank of Onondaga Creek by the West Adams Street bridge, a bank that is supposed to be off limits to people due to safety reasons.
On May 1 the Syracuse Police Department reported that a male was found dead in the creek near the entrance to the Inner Harbor. Later on, the body was identified as Turner’s, who had drowned.
Walter presented the memorial plaque to one of Turner’s closest friends, who said that her first name was Robin.
Then, the South Side event culminated with a parade for kids. Fifteen children in small bikes rode around the block where the Southwest Community Center is located, across the street from Brady’s.
The neighborhood kids seemed to be quite familiar with the route: South, Bellevue and Lincoln avenues, and Tallman Street.
Unlike the South Side children, Cathy Lunetta, who took the Marcellus ride sporting bib number 023, wasn’t familiar at all with the route of her ride. “I was getting lost riding along the valley to Marcellus,” she said. “Fortunately, Andrew and others had placed orange arrows before and after each turn. That helped me regain my orientation.”
— Article by Miguel Balbuena, The Stand community correspondent