Saturday, December 7, 2013
WATERVILLE - Judith Blanchard was geared up and ready for the 40-mile bicycle trek to Belfast.
Volunteer Leo Smith helps Kris Ebbeson of Rochester, N.H., keep her balance Sunday after she climbed a hill on Route 3 in Palermo. The trek benefits the American Lung Association.
Photo by Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal
"I feel great this morning," she said. "There are some aches and pains I didn't feel on Thursday, but I'm OK."
It was 6:30 a.m. Sunday and Blanchard, 61, of Freeport, was standing in a sea of bicyclists about to push off on the third leg of the Trek Across Maine to raise money for the American Lung Association.
They had pedaled 140 miles since Friday, when they kicked off the trek at Sunday River in Bethel. They slept Saturday night at Colby College -- in the field house, in tents or in dormitories -- after arriving from Farmington.
Blanchard, who is chaplain at Maine Medical Center in Portland, was raring to go.
"This is my ninth year doing the trek and I was recruited by someone who I work with at Maine Medical Center," she said. "It's addictive. It's wonderful. It's the best way to see our glorious state."
Blanchard and the other bicyclists were hoping to raise $1.8 million.
Jeffrey E. Seyler, president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association of the Northeast, stood outside the field house, cheering bikers on.
"We have a record number of riders on the road -- just under 2,100," Seyler, of Waltham, Mass., said. "It's gone very smoothly. Everyone's happy; no major injuries."
Riders were expected to arrive in Belfast between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., he said.
"We are on a course to raise $1.8 million," he said.
Trekkers came from 27 states and many are from Maine, Seyler said. The youngest is 8 and the oldest 80, he said. Some have lost family members to cancer, some are former smokers, some have children with asthma and some have asthma themselves, he said.
The money raised during the trek is critical to the lung association's mission, Seyler said.
In addition to working with lung disease, asthma and tobacco prevention, the association is fighting hard to protect the federal Clean Air Act, which is under attack in Congress, Seyler said.
"We want to see those Clean Air Act provisions continue," he said.
The trek is in its 28th year, according to Kathleen O'Neill, communications manager for the American Lung Association of the Northeast, which serves all of the New England states, as well as New York. O'Neill was at Colby early Sunday with Seyler.
"At our first Trek Across Maine, we had 106 cyclists and raised $41,000," she said.
Sunday morning, Andy Greif of Kennebunk was about to leave Colby on a four-seater bicycle with three youths who are part of the Community Bicycle Center based in Biddeford.
Greif, 56, said the youth development program uses bicycles to work with participants, helping them develop life skills and learn about community service and other important activities.
People donate bikes to the after-school program and the youths work on them and ultimately get to own a bike.
Mentoring is a big part of the program, which has raised $210,000 in the Trek Across Maine in the 13 years it has hosted a team, said Greif. Nine youths, ages 9 to 16, and 25 adults, represented the program in the trek.
Greif has turned his love of biking into a mission to help others -- and inspire youth to share his passion.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder can be reached at 861-9247 or at: