When Ann Saylor crossed Lititz Springs Park this past Sunday during the COBYS Bike and Hike, it really wasn’t much of a stretch for the Manheim mother. Saylor has been walking alongside families for 27 years as a foster parent who partners with COBYS Family Services, so the stroll through Lititz this weekend was, well, a walk in the park.
“It’s a neat way for us to give back to COBYS to help other children come into foster care,” said Saylor, who has housed 60 children over the years. At one point, she fostered five children under the age of five: two two-year-olds, two one-year-olds, and a four-year-old.
On Sunday though, Saylor walked the three-mile route through the downtown area accompanied only by her husband and two foster children. Meanwhile, her daughter raised funds for the COBYS cause on a 60-mile motorcycle ride. Others rode bicycles over a 10- or 25-mile course, including adoptive parents Brad and Elizabeth Herr of Lititz, who rode with their five-year-old daughter, Natalie.
“It’s a charity I’ve always supported,” said Elizabeth Herr, “because they help families stay together and when they can’t (stay together), they help families come together.”
The Herr family, including the daddy-daughter duo on a tandem bike, led the group of cyclists as they left the Lititz Church of the Brethren, where the event was held again this year.
“They have been very generous and gracious hosts,” said Mark Cunningham, Executive Director of COBYS, noting that each year the church sets up sound and stores supplies for the event as a way of ministering to the COBYS ministry. Tucked away inside the church’s freezer during the day were gallons of ice cream for the return of the hikers and bikers.
For the DeChristopher family, who biked the shorter course between Manheim and Lititz on a bicycle built for four, the frozen treat was a welcome way to end the day. In fact, it was seven-year-old Jason’s favorite part of the event. But what did his older brother like the most?
“Downhill,” said Mark, aged ten. The family has raised funds by riding in previous years, and this year Mark’s mother, Diane, even won one of the many door prizes.
“The door prizes are my favorite,” said Don Fitzkee, COBYS Director of Development and primary planner of the event. His mother, Floy Fitzkee, was the top fund-raiser this year, bringing in $6,185 for the organization.
In all, over 500 people participated in the 18th annual fund-raiser, garnering an estimated $102,000 for the organization. New this year was a silent auction which allowed a less vigorous alternative for members of the community to show support for COBYS.
“This is our biggest fund-raiser of the year,” said Fitzkee, who was “thrilled with the response by donors.” Over 90 local businesses contributed to the success of the event through sponsorship or donations for the silent auction. Fitzkee expects funds to top the $100,000 mark for the second year in a row.
Helping to push them over the goal was a challenge issued by Lampeter-Strasburg Chief of Police Steve Echternach, a member of the COBYS board of directors. Echternach pledged to donate an additional twenty dollars beyond his entry fee for every cyclist who bested his time in the 25-mile ride. Thirteen riders bested his mark.
While young bikers pushed the limits on the course, one spry senior citizen didn’t mind breaking into a sweat for the cause. Eighty-six-year-old Norma Groff of Manheim walked alongside her daughter, Mary Martin, a COBYS foster mother for fifteen years. Groff took a break from canning tomatoes and pears to accept her daughter’s invitation to the Hike and Bike.
“I came because my daughter had a lot of foster children,” said Groff. “I lived with her and helped with them.” During a decade and a half, Martin housed 31 foster children through COBYS.
“They’re a great agency to work with for foster or to adopt,” Martin said. The agency also offers family life education classes in Lancaster and counseling services in two locations. For more information, please contact COBYS at www.cobys.org or (717) 656-6580.
Lynn Rebuck covers special events for LititzDailyNews.com. She welcomes your comments at editor@LititzDaily.com.
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