Most families of the missing join the RMC on Thursday evening for a private dinner. The media and public aren't invited for this portion of the weekend. It's a time for families to reconnect, catch up, and welcome new families. It feels like a reunion of sorts. In addition to updating each other about our missing loved one's cases, we invest each other's lives and how we've been since the last time we saw each other. Many of us keep in touch via social media yet this is still difficult due to schedules and not everyone being on Facebook. We are grateful the National Center cares so much for the families and recovered children (now adults) an opportunity to bond in a safe environment prior to ride day.
On Friday morning, we are up by 4 a.m. to get ready and join other family members and our "Ride Family" for a day of exhaustion, love, and hope. We enjoy a time of fellowship before the ride, hear last minute instructions, and from a family member or two about their missing loved one. This is one way NCMEC reminds the riders, this isn't a "ride", it's a mission. A mission for our missing and exploited children, and to educate our communities, families, friends, and children of dangers to help stop this epidemic against our kids. We are grateful for all who make this annual mission a reality.
Friday is a full day. A day with nearly 500 cyclists riding 100 miles each as a symbol of hope, awareness, prevention, and education. The riders start training in January for this day. The planners and multitude of committees start meeting and planning the week after the prior year's ride. This is a big event, with an even bigger heart. A heart of hope. The ride starts at Troop D and ends at the Recreation Center in New Hartford. All who participate conclude their day with exhaustion - some physical, some mental, and others experience both.
For family members who don't ride a bicycle, like myself, a rider is designated to ride for our missing loved one. This makes the ride even more special for the families of the missing, to know that one person rides for their son, daughter, sister, brother, niece, nephew, cousin, and friend. These people become treasures in our blessing jars, and sometimes, friends for life.
We leave the hotel by 5 ish a.m. and don't return until after 8 p.m. It's a busy and fabulous day. You might think we return to shower and go to bed yet this isn't the case. Instead, the families gather once again to talk about the day and finish catching up. It's a time we've come to look forward to each evening, a time to unwind, relax, and just "be".
Saturday is an early morning but one that is nearly as busy as the day before. NCMEC provides breakfast for the families, one last meal together until we meet again. This year though, there is something exciting happening on Saturday morning...to learn what...stay tuned.