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The Times
  • Mohawk Valley students show support for Ride for Missing Children

  • As riders with the Ride for Missing Children arrived at Frankfort-Schuyler Elementary School on Friday they were greeted with the sound of applause and the release of dozens of balloons.

    The ride — one of five across the state — was nearly 90 miles long, with its purpose to draw awareness for missing children.

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  • As riders with the Ride for Missing Children arrived at Frankfort-Schuyler Elementary School on Friday they were greeted with the sound of applause and the release of dozens of balloons.
    The ride — one of five across the state — was nearly 90 miles long, with its purpose to draw awareness for missing children.
    “It’s such a great cause,” said Bruce Iffert, of New Hartford. “It brings hope to the people looking for missing children.”
    Iffert, who participated in the ride for the seventh time on Friday, high-fived students at the school during their stop.
    Riders started their journey in Oneida at 7:45 a.m., and traveled 15 miles to Westmoreland Middle School for breakfast. They continued another 14 miles before stopping at Hugh R. Jones School in Utica, and then another 14 miles before stopping at Frankfort-Schuyler Elementary, where they had lunch.
    They reached the half way point nine miles later at Herkimer Elementary School. The riders passed several schools along the way, where children and teachers showed their support, including Barringer Road and Remington elementary school students in Ilion and Jarvis High School in Mohawk.
    Other stops included Midstate Correctional Facility after a 23 mile stretch, before finishing 12 miles later at the New Hartford Recreation Center.
    Katie Ullman, a spokesperson for the Ride, said the unofficial tally of riders at the start Friday was 488. She said a final tally on how much was raised would be available after press time. Money raised from the ride will go into making posters for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
    Alicia Kozakiewicz, of Pittsburgh, said she knows first-hand the effectiveness of the missing children posters. In 2002, she was lured by an online predator and was kidnapped. She was rescued four days later by the FBI because someone recognized her photo on a missing poster.
    “My poster is the reason I was recovered,” she said on Friday at Frankfort-Schuyler Elementary. Kozakiewicz and her family was among 65 families of victims traveling in separate vehicles with the riders.
    Kozakiewicz, who now coordinates The Alicia Project on Facebook, also recognized the school for its show of support. “It’s amazing,” she said, about the many Ride decorations throughout the school.
    Riders also received a warm reception at Herkimer Elementary School, with music and students and teachers showing their support. Riders gave students their autograph and some riders had students sign their jerseys, including Jasmine Davis, of Utica.
    “It’s to give hope to the families,” she said on why she rides. “This is my first year. It’s awesome.”
    Cheryl Jory, a fourth-grade teacher at the school, gave her signature to some students.
    “I can’t think of anything better to do,” she said about participating in the ride. “This is the halfway point ... The kids keep us going.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The school’s principal, Kathy Carney, was among the riders.
    “It’s a beautiful day, a beautiful cause, it’s picture perfect,” she said after arriving at the school.
    Mary Tomaso, assistant principal at the school, said they raised $1,609 to distribute a total of 6,436 posters. She said students prepared for the ride all month long by “making pictures and posters, blowing up balloons, selling Mother’s Day carnations, counting and rolling pennies and doing all they could to demonstrate their hope for the families of missing children, the central theme of the Ride.”
    She also said the PTA donated all of the balloons for the event and $600 to the Ride, which means the production of 2,400 missing children posters.
    “As you continue on your journey today you will encounter a few more hills and hopefully even more valleys that not only your legs will pedal you through, but your hearts as well, as stories of triumphant reunions and families who await closure to their tragedies are told,” said Tomaso.
    Some of the riders were considered a “designated rider” as they wore a picture badge of a specific missing victim. Some of the families of these victims were recognized at the school and handed a white balloon. Students also released dozens of balloons at the end of the ceremony to the song “Somewhere Out There.”

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