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Center State Club Coach Rides 100 Miles to Raise Awareness for Child Safety
by Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz, special to U.S. Figure Skating

For many people, a 100-mile bicycle ride sounds like an impossible goal. For Center State Figure Skating Club coach Kim Dzialo of Chittenango, New York, riding 100 miles was a lifelong dream, especially if it meant taking part in "The Ride for Missing Children."

The ride, which raises money and awareness for child safety, was formed in 1995 by a group of seven men who rode from New Hartford, New York to Washington D.C.

"The ride was something I have wanted to do since I was younger," Dzialo said.

In 1995, the father of one of Dzialo’s skating friends rode in memory of a young Upstate New York child named Sara Ann Wood who had been kidnapped in 1993. It took Dzialo some time to purchase the proper bike to participate in the event as they are expensive.

This year, she committed to raising $500 and to riding with a unified team of cyclists, two by two for 100 miles, escorted by a team of New York state police officers. The ride began at the Trooper Barracks in Oneida, New York on May 15, and ended with a Victory Ride down Genesee St., a main route in South Utica, New York. The highlight of the ride, however, was the school visits along the route.

"At each school that we visited we brought the message of child safety and abduction prevention," Dzialo said. "Our bicycles were the vehicles used to make our journey. They merely provided us with a visible means to spread our message about the plight of missing and exploited children and the importance of child safety education."

Dzialo said that the most emotional stop was Sauquoit as it was the home of Sara Ann Wood.

"It was a good thing I had the tissues there because the tears were flowing. We got there and the kids were cheering us on and then they sang a song for us in tribute to Sara and the ceremonial balloon release."

For Dzialo, the experience really meant something when one of her students thanked her via Facebook.

The student posted:

You make me so proud and happy Coach Kim. More than you know. Sara Ann Wood was kidnapped down the road from my house. She went to my school. I play and pass by the tree every day even when I play outside. I think she is there every day watching me from heaven. I watch the riders every year and I love it. I will have my mommy and daddy give you some of my money. Thank you from where I live and for all the missing kids and all the kids in heaven too.

"This brought me to tears and made me very proud," Dzialo said.

For Dzialo, seeing all the people along the route cheering and thanking the riders was the greatest feeling in the world.

"When we were nearing the end of the ride I remember looking at my riding partner and saying 'I can’t believe we are done already.' As many miles as we rode, I was ready to keep going," Dzialo said. "Seeing all the people out roadside cheering us on and thanking us as we rode by was a great feeling. I am so happy to be a part of this group I can now call family."

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