Point Reyes Station, Calif. (IOCC) Dipping their front tires into the Pacific Ocean, the cyclists of the "Race to Respond" celebrated the end of their 25-day, cross-country journey with jubilation over the safe completion of their goal - to raise support and awareness for the humanitarian mission of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).
Some of the cyclists rode their bicycles into the cold Pacific water. Others lifted their bicycles high in triumph. They knelt and prayed on the beach. They hugged and cried. They celebrated with their families.
Crew Chief Kerry San Chirico read a Psalm and offered a prayer of thanksgiving.
"This has truly been an experience that none of us will ever forget," said Lynn Angelus, wife of lead cyclist Jim Angelus and chief navigator for the "Race to Respond."
Angelus' twin sons, Evan and Nicholas, ran on the beach and into the cold, crashing surf. "I'm really proud of my dad," said Evan, 10. "I mean, how many people do you know that have bicycled across the country?"
The parents of cyclists Constantine "Dino" Davlantis and Alex Mazarakos also joined in the celebration on the Point Reyes National Seashore as the sun was going down.
"I'd just like to think that the 'Race to Respond' is not over. It's going to continue," Jim Angelus said.
The five cyclists rode across the country in 25 days to raise support and awareness for the people served by IOCC. Along the way, they stopped at dozens of Orthodox churches, monasteries and other locations to tell the story of IOCC and the vulnerable people it helps throughout the world.
"Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going," Davlantis said.
All five cyclists volunteered the month of August to participate in the benefit ride, whose goal is to raise $250,000 for the humanitarian work of IOCC.
On the final day, the cyclists rode from Lodi, Calif., to Point Reyes Station, Calif. There, they regrouped and made the final push to the Pacific coastline.
Cyclist Konstantin Kanelis of Munich, Germany, raised his hands in the air as he coasted down to the seashore. "I think IOCC has done with this a very good job," he said. "Thanks be to God that we did it without any problems. That's a miracle."
After the celebration on the beach, the cyclists and their entourage went to the nearby Orthodox Monastery of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco to offer prayers of thanks.
"God has blessed you with a good work," said Father Jonah, abbot of the monastery. "May it be for his glory."
Father Jonah led a brief prayer service for the cyclists and anointed them with holy oil for the "healing of soul and body," invoking the prayers of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco.
Father Jonah noted that St. John's whole life was dedicated to serving the poor, just as IOCC serves the poor today. "This is a really fitting conclusion to your trip, to be in a monastery that is dedicated to the mission and ministry of St. John," he said.
"It is by serving the poor that we manifest the reality of what it means to be a Christian," he said.
On Wednesday, Aug. 28, an event honoring IOCC and the cyclists will be held at Crissy Field near the Golden Gate Bridge, hosted by the San Francisco Metropolitan Committee and the pan-Orthodox community of San Francisco.
To donate, call toll-free 877-803-4622 or visit the Web site www.racetorespond.org.
The race was presented by Advantage Plus Inc., makers of Ten Plus nutritional supplement drink. Other sponsors included Light Street Cycles in Baltimore, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Marcus & Millichap and Rocky Mountain Orthodox Christian Charities and Mission.