Members of the Rancho Family YMCA’s Bike Club are preparing for the 22nd annual Ride Across California (RAC).
The weeklong event takes local fifth graders and their families on a ride
starting in Yuma, Ariz. on March 24, 2013 and will end at Carlsbad State Beach
on March 30 with various stops on the way. RAC is organized by the staff of the
Rancho Family YMCA with the support of corps of community volunteers, and aims
to show kids how proper training and planning can enable them to accomplish any
goal they set. Established in 1991, the RAC experience makes such an impact on
students that many continue to participate even after fifth grade.
“Rancho Family YMCA is happy to organize Ride Across California, a
program that is unique to our branch and has made a positive impact in the lives
of local kids and their families for more than two decades,” said Mark A.
Thompson, executive director, Rancho Family YMCA. “RAC encourages physical
fitness as well as character building and it’s wonderful to see all the
participants ride into South Carlsbad State Beach, and celebrate their
accomplishment of riding from the desert to the ocean with all of their
supporters,” said Thompson.
The Ride Across California program was
founded in 1991 by Dennis Bueker, a fifth grade teacher at Deer Canyon
Elementary School in Rancho Penasquitos. Now retired, Bueker began the program
to help fifth graders gain confidence and learn how to overcome and deal with
difficult challenges in life. His inspiration for the program came from the book
“Hey Mom, Can I Ride My Bike Across America?” written by John Seigel Boettner in
1986. The first trip more than 20 years ago involved a handful of students who
rode from San Diego to Yuma.
“Once they finish the Ride Across
California, they feel as if they can accomplish anything,” says Bueker. Rancho
Family YMCA took over the program in 2002 when the Poway Unified School District
was unable to support the program for Deer Canyon Elementary and has organized
the ride every year since.
One key volunteer involved with the ride is
Gary Rossi, a coordinator and leader for RAC. Along with planning and
coordinating the ride, Rossi also participates every year. He started
participating 11 years ago when he rode with his daughter and then with his son.
In 2002, Rossi stepped up and became the leader of RAC when Bueker retired.
“Without the parent volunteers that help with safety equipment, meals, and
camping gear, RAC would not be possible. So many kids would miss out on this
great opportunity,” said Rossi.
In 2013, 150 riders are expected to
participate in this year’s ride. Donations from community members are needed to
support riders and their families, including granola bars, Gatorade or Powerade
in powder form, individually packaged trail mix, corn nuts, five-gallon water
jugs, and bike tubes. All donations can be made through the Rancho Family YMCA
of San Diego County. For more information, contact Jesse Pazdernik, sports and
teens director, at 858-484-8788 or visit www.rancho.ymca.org.