For the last five years, the Bike-A-Thon to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation has made its way through Weehawken, through the Lincoln Tunnel and then along Port Imperial Boulevard north to the George Washington Bridge and points north.
It’s also been an event that brings out the best in some Weehawken youngsters, members of the high school’s Peer Leadership group and student council.
Every year, Richard Terpak, the athletic director at the school, who is also the student council and Peer Leadership faculty advisor, asks the students if they would be willing to volunteer their services to help distribute drinks and snacks for the 1,000 or so participants who pedal their way through Weehawken.
This year, about 25 students awoke at the crack of dawn on a recent Sunday morning and got together to help a worthy cause.
“It’s tough to get kids who are willing to get up at 7:30 in the morning on a Sunday and give of their time,” Terpak said. “But these kids were willing to make the sacrifice. They get nothing more than a T-shirt and a ‘thank you,’ but they really come out and want to help. I was really impressed with their attitude. It was a lot of hard work, but they were all pitching in. They’re all real go-getters.”
Senior Nicole Hegarty is the vice-president of the student council.
“This was the first year that I volunteered for the Bike-A-Thon,” Hegarty said. “But I really enjoyed it. I was hanging out with my friends and we were all working hard, handing out the refreshments. I like to think I had a positive impact on some of the people. Some of the people who were participating were really friendly and very appreciative of what we were doing. It was nice to meet some new people and help them out.”
Hegarty said it is always a good thing when teenagers show their true colors in a worthy event.
“I think helping out like this makes us look like we care, which we do,” Hegarty said. “Sometimes, other people don’t understand teenagers. But we wanted to come and help out a great cause.”
Senior Joanna Salazar of the school’s Peer Leadership group volunteered her services for the second straight year. “I really enjoyed myself last year, so I wanted to do it again,” Salazar said. “Of course, the bikers were very happy that we were there to help. I think it’s an honor that we’re able to be there to help out. We’re there with a smile. Anything I can do to help, I will be there.”
Terpak said that he is trying to organize other charitable events where the students can volunteer their services. “I’d like to see more of it,” Terpak said. “If there are other organizations in town that can utilize the talents of the students, they can give us a call. There really is a sense, a feeling of accomplishment, when you’re helping someone else. Although the work got overwhelming at times, with all the bikers going through, there was a sense of accomplishment.”
“If we had other events, I would be the first to sign up,” Hegarty said.
The Peer Leadership group was set for its next charity-based event, as they were scheduled to deliver Thanksgiving meals to the needy and elderly.
It’s been so much of a rush for Salazar that she would love to continue to volunteer her services, even after her high school days are done.
“I’ll probably come back next year,” Salazar said. “I liked helping out so much.” “I think it’s an honor that we’re able to be there to help out. We’re there with a smile.” – Joanna Salazar