Shelocta, PA to Alliance, OH
Akron, Ohio (IOCC) The cyclists of the "Race to Respond" took their message of hope to a Romanian Orthodox monastery celebrating its feast day and an inner-city Greek Orthodox parish on Tuesday, Aug. 6.
Also on Day 4 of the cross-country benefit ride, the cyclists left Pennsylvania and entered Ohio. They now have logged nearly 400 miles on the road.
"Everybody's strengths are starting to show," said lead cyclist Jim Angelus, 45, of Hopewell, N.J. "It didn't take too long, because of the hills (in Pennsylvania)."
"It was exciting riding through Pennsylvania," said cycling team member Constantine "Dino" Davlantis, 30, of Oak Lawn, Ill. "We don't have hills like that in Chicago."
The five volunteer cyclists are riding from coast-to-coast in 25 days as a way to raise awareness and support for the people served by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) throughout the world. Along the way, they are stopping at Orthodox parishes and other locations to help the Orthodox faithful feel a part of IOCC's humanitarian work.
On Tuesday, Aug. 6, the cyclists rode from Kittanning, Pa., to Alliance, Ohio. At midday they stopped riding long enough to visit Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Ellwood City, Pa., on its feast day. Aug. 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, one of the 12 major feast days on the Orthodox church calendar.
Among the many pilgrims at the monastery was His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel of the Orthodox Church in America's Romanian Episcopate. Mother Christophora, monastery abbess, welcomed the cyclists and praised the work of IOCC.
She singled out IOCC's work among refugees, noting that the monastery's founder, Mother Alexandra (Princess Ileana of Romania), was exiled from her homeland, traveling as a refugee to France and then the United States.
In places such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, IOCC is helping refugees return to their pre-war homes. In places such as Turkey, Greece and the West Bank, IOCC is helping refugees meet the daily challenges of living in difficult circumstances.
After leaving the monastery, the cycling team, including a large support-and-gear truck and two minivans, continued west. They entered Ohio at about 5 p.m. Tuesday. The flat land of northeastern Ohio was a welcome relief from the hills of Pennsylvania, where the cyclists reached elevations of 2,700 feet.
A day earlier, in Johnstown, Pa., a strong thunderstorm presented difficulties for the cyclists. "I did say the Lord's Prayer when I was going down the hill in the rain," Angelus said.
Angelus said that morale among the cyclists is good and that the pace so far has been good. "We've accomplished a lot in just four nights," he said. "In general, things are going really well."
On Tuesday evening, the cycling team rolled into Akron, Ohio, where they visited Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. There, the Rev. Jerry Hall, parish rector, and parishioners held a dessert reception for the cyclists.
On Wednesday, Aug. 7, the cyclists will ride from Akron to Fostoria, Ohio. They'll make a midday stop in downtown Cleveland, where they will attend a public ceremony hosted by Mayor Jane Campbell on the steps of City Hall. Other attendees will be IOCC board member Fr. Irinej Dobrijevic and board chairman Bert Moyar. After the ceremony, the cycling team, will get a police escort to the offices of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, where they will make a presentation to publisher and IOCC board member Alex Machaskee. The Plain Dealer is a sponsor of the "Race to Respond."