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Cyclist Brings Her Own Family Peloton To Anchor House “Ride for Runaways”

PATTI’S PELOTON: Patti Maslanka will be joined this year on her fifth Anchor House Ride for Runaways by five of her children. From left, Mark, Patti, Jeff, Rebecca, Christopher, and Carolyn Maslanka. (Their dog Oliver will be staying home.) (Photo Courtesy of Christopher Maslanka)

By Donald Gilpin

Patti Maslanka is preparing to ride in her fifth consecutive annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways, setting out from Virginia on July 7 and riding 500 miles back to Trenton by July 14.

Maslanka won’t be alone at this 40th annual ride to raise money for Anchor House, which provides shelter, school, and outreach to youth ages 12 to 21 from Mercer County and throughout the state. She will be joined by five of her children, one as support and four as riders. It is the fourth year for one son, the third for another, the second for one daughter, and the first for another.

A veterinarian and owner of the HomeCare Veterinary Clinic in Rocky Hill, Maslanka recalls hearing about the Anchor House Ride five years ago at St Paul’s Church. “Five hundred miles — how could I do that?” she said to herself, but she realized that “you break it down in pieces. You ride 25-30 miles, then take a break.”

In 2014, her first year, her strongest motivation was her son Mark. “He had just graduated from high school, and I wanted to get to know him better. I also wanted him to give back to kids who hadn’t had the opportunities that he had.”

Maslanka recalled that the whole week of riding together was a week of getting to know each other. “I learned more about Mark that week than I had in the previous 18 years, and he had the realization that not all kids had had the advantages he’d had.”

A year later in 2015, her son Jeffrey, who had just graduated from Montgomery High School (MHS), joined his mother and brother on the ride, but the following year Mark was sidelined with a knee injury, so it was just Patti and Jeffrey.

Then, in 2017, daughter Rebecca graduated from MHS to join the group, and for this year’s ride, daughter Carolyn, a firefighter and EMT who’s turning 18, will also be a part of the family peloton. Oldest son Chris will be on the trip as one of the support personnel, working with the sag wagons and rover cars to check on riders throughout the seven days. As a videographer, he will also be videotaping parts of the ride.

Each year, the ride starts from a different location, and this year the riders are dropped off in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with stops in subsequent days in Winchester, Va., Frederick, Md., Gettysburg, Pa., Lancaster, Lansdale, and Trenton. A new feature of this years route is a “loop day,” where the riders stay for two nights in Gettysburg, returning to the same hotel after their usual grueling approximately 75-mile daily ride.

“Sometimes on the ride, you’re at the absolute max of what you think you can do,” Maslanka said. “They go out of their way to make it challenging, but they do provide sag stops every 20 miles or so where you can get off your bike and get something to drink or eat.”

She added, “But don’t let your muscles cool down. Don’t sit down. Keep moving. If you sit down, it becomes much more difficult. Mark helped me to learn that the first year.”

Maslanka went on to describe the daily routine. “You get into a rhythm. You pack up your things early, put them on a truck, and they bring your bags to the hotel for that night.”

The family interaction and the importance of the work that Anchor House does remain her greatest incentives. “To spend time together as a family is the whole reason why we do it,” she said, “and my clients have been incredibly responsive.” Maslanka and her family raised about $3,000 for Anchor House in the first year, then $5,000 in the second year, and over $10,000 so far this year.

She remembers talking with a young man who received emergency shelter and college tuition from Anchor House. “His family had fallen apart. He was homeless. Then Anchor House helped him to get through college, which he completed this year. It’s great to have the opportunity to see that, to see the impact your contribution has. Wow — it’ll be great to talk with him. He’ll be on the ride this year.”

In its “Welcome” to riders, the Anchor House ride committee states, “We believe that the ride is a unique and compelling experience both because of the physical challenge and the emotional connection to a diverse group of people who share a passion for helping the kids of Anchor House.”

Maslanka and her family peloton will be among nearly 200 bicyclists and 30 support volunteers participating in this year’s 40th Ride for Runaways.