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Cyclists raise money to help abused, neglected children

May 22, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- Raymond and Ellen Meinhart met on a 100-mile bicycle ride 21 years ago and married a year later.

Saturday, they celebrated their 20th anniversary riding in the sixth Annual CASA Two Rivers Century Bike Ride fundraiser.

Riders chose from a 10-mile or 25-mile ride along the C&O Canal, or 50-, 62- or 100-mile rides on area roadways.

"We wanted to celebrate our anniversary with an organized bike ride," Ellen Meinhart said. "I googled and found this one."

The couple, from Washington, D.C., headed out from downtown Shepherdstown on a 62-mile ride.

Ellen called it a "romantic ride." Relatives are with their two daughters, freeing them up for the ride and a night's stay at the Bavarian Inn.

CASA, an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocate, is a nonprofit agency. Lisa Davis is director of CASA, which has one full-time and one part-time employee and about 40 volunteers.

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CASA volunteers are appointed by judges. They are advocates for abused or neglected children who have been removed from their homes by the courts. Volunteers represent children in court and find safe and permanent homes for them.

Volunteers undergo stringent FBI background and reference checks, Davis said.

There are 13 CASA chapters in West Virginia, she said.

CASA of the Eastern Panhandle Inc. currently handles about 135 children.

"We can't help them all," Davis said. "We just don't have the volunteers."

More than 1,500 cases of abuse and neglect of children were reported in 2009, she said.

The agency operates on an annual budget of $130,000. The money comes from grants and fundraisers such as Saturday's bicycle ride, which takes in between $20,000 and $25,000, Davis said.

Riders on Saturday began and ended in Shepherdstown, said Tim Holt, 47, of Martinsburg, W.Va., an event organizer. Breakfast and lunch were provided.

Volunteer Bill Wilcox puts up the route markers every year that riders follow.

There was a bit of confusion early on Saturday when it was learned that a large group of riders from the Washington, D.C., area were on a 250-mile ride that had the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery as a pit stop.

Chris Menot, spokesman for the D.C. Randoconneurs bicycle club, said 44 riders were on the road for the 27-hour timed trip. It was a round-trip beginning in Frederick, Md., going through Hancock, then Newville and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania before heading back to Frederick.

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