COAL TOWNSHIP — On a hazy, fall morning, Saturday’s first annual “Fight the Blight” benefit ride, organized by the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA), kick-started at 9 a.m. A large number of riders were already on hand bright and early to register or receive their pre-registered pass for the event.
“We’re happy to help the county clean up blight and also continue our support for the seventh-straight year toward Geisinger Children’s Miracle Network. We had a total of 267 riders pre-register for today’s benefit ride,” said AOAA Director of Operations Dave Porzi. “They’ll be doing a 25-mile loop (roughly 3-hour ride), all on our Western Reserve. Most of these people are doing a ‘mud and chicken run’ today, meaning they’re just out here to have some family fun and help support a good cause.”
Porzi also said that a number of “green trails,” those which aren’t used on a regular basis, were being opened for the special benefit ride.
AOAA Authority board member Pat Mack added, “Our staff of 40 to 50 volunteers have done a tremendous job getting everything ready for today’s event and it’s great to see this kind of turnout.”
A separate bake-sale fundraiser by Great Dane for “Autism Speaks,” which was not affiliated with the benefit ride, was also held at the pavilion in the morning. Great Dane human resources manager Shayla Nowakoski thanked the AOAA for its generosity in allowing her organization to use the facility in order to help raise money for those less fortunate.
In addition to the AOAA staff and volunteers, riders also shared their thoughts on taking part in the benefit ride.
Terry Lewis and B’eoanna Truscott, of West Chester, said that they were looking forward to enjoying the ride and doing something different.
Jim Zaremba, of Mountaintop, accompanied by his wife, Ericka, said, “We rode here at the AOAA last year. They’re well organized and this is for a good cause.”
An Elysburg family, Jamie Golden and his two children, 12-year-old Jaymen and 9-year-old Makenna, said that they were all excited about going out on the benefit ride.
“This is our first time and we’re really looking forward to a great ride today,” said Golden.
With 311 participants, this year’s event was well attended and monies raised from the $30 entry fee will be used to benefit the community in a number of ways.
First and foremost, the benefit ride raised money for the Northumberland County Housing Authority (NCHA) to help clean up, rehabilitate and eliminate blighted properties throughout the county.
“I just think it’s a great benefit for us that we have a local organization here (AOAA) who’s giving back to the community in a number of ways. This fundraiser will allow us to obtain additional grant monies for performing county-wide neighborhood cleanups, property rehabilitation and demolition,” said Ed Christiano, executive director of the NCHA.
Geisinger Children’s Miracle Network
Second, the Geisinger Children’s Miracle Network also benefited from a portion of the proceeds. Those funds will be used to provide equipment, programs and services for children at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, as well as pediatric services throughout the Geisinger Health System.
Third, a final portion of the proceeds, $10, went toward the Zerbe Rod and Gun Club in Trevorton, who treated all pre-registered participants to an open-pit chicken barbecue meal on their premises following the ride.
“We’re expecting a good turnout from the riders today and also want to thank Dave Porzi and his AOAA team who always put on a great event,” said Zerbe Rod and Gun Club financial secretary Dan Alexander. “We greatly appreciate them including us in this event.”
Alexander offered additional thanks to all volunteers, including fellow club member and veteran “chicken master” chef John Klinger, who tended to the actual cooking of the main course outside.
“I’m just happy we have all our club members here helping us out today. I’ve been doing these open-pit barbecues for over 40 years now, including at my home church of Clark’s Grove UMC,” said Klinger.
“We’ve done a few of these chicken barbecues as charity benefits in the past and this is our third year working with the AOAA,” said Zerbe Rod and Gun Club member Karen Schafer, who was hard at work inside the kitchen and dining room area helping to get everything ready for the hungry riders.
Porzi concluded by offering a special thank you to all sponsors who made the Fight the Blight ride possible.
“The AOAA would like to thank Anthracite Trail Riders, Off-Road Consulting, Eagle Valley Off-Roaders, Blue Mountain Jeep Alliance and Coal Region Outsiders for their sponsorship with this event,” he said.