In less than 10 days, Kate Stewart will begin a 100-mile journey on her bike. The Fayetteville-Manlius German teacher is a cyclist, and she's on a mission to help keep kids and families safe.
The fifth annual Finger Lakes Ride for Missing Children, to be held Friday Sept. 28, is sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children/New York (NCMEC/NY) -- an organization that helps recover missing children, protects kids from sexual exploitation and offers prevention education programs.
The ride is not competitive; it's not even a race. It's actually team-paced and escorted by members of the New York State Police, local police and sheriff's departments. Throughout the course, participants will make several stops to designated elementary schools from Auburn to Baldwinsville. There they will speak to students about safety and good decision making.
"Each school has the kids all pumped up with a little musical show," Stewart said. "We arrive riding in a double line with a police escort. The kids form a line with their hands extended and we ride past them and slap five."
Cheers and emotions are at an all time high, she said.
Stewart became involved in the ride for the first time last year. She was inspired to join for a few reasons.
For one, she's a committed cyclist on a women's racing team and has been a member of the Onondaga Cycling Club for almost two decades. Just this summer, she began riding with kids from Bike Syracuse, an organization that mentors city kids through cycling.
Second, she's a teacher.
"It seemed like a natural fit," Stewart said. "I see myself as both modeling healthy habits by cycling and also showing kids and families that I am committed to helping them be safe."
On a personal level, Stewart knew someone whose "baby sister had been kidnapped, raped and murdered," she said. "So I have a very diluted understanding of the trauma that we are trying to avoid."