Ride for Missing Children—fun with a serious purpose

photo of Mr. Pagnotta and Mrs. HIgginsOn Friday, June 2, the 21st annual Ride for Missing Children’s stop at Barringer Road Elementary looked like a party.

Students lined the sidewalks, holding signs, shaking noisemakers and cheering. Police and emergency vehicles led almost 500 riders dressed in bright pink, blue and white t-shirts around the Barringer Road circle and into the parking lot. A DJ rocked the air with music. Helium balloons filled the sky.

But amidst the fun and excitement was a serious message. This was about the safe return of lost and missing children.

The Ride for Missing Children (The Ride) raises money for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—New York/Mohawk Valley Office. The Ride honors the memory of all missing children, raises public awareness of the plight of missing and exploited children and the need for child safety education, and provides funds to support missing children poster distribution and community education to prevent child abduction and exploitation.

This year was special for Central Valley School District. Barringer Road Elementary School was a rest stop for riders.

In addition, seven district employees rode. Custodian John Pagnotta, PreK teacher Martha Higgins, third grade teacher Jennifer Arcuri, technology teacher Emilie Huxley, sixth grade teacher Colleen Bunce, special education teacher Karen Casler and English teacher Ellen Burney each raised a minimum of $500 each to ride. Much of that came through fundraisers and contributions from fellow Central Valley employees and students and their families.

Central Valley has a long history of sending riders to participate. But this year, Barringer Road principal Jeremy Rich decided to take it one step further and committed to host the riders. Individual classrooms made signs or noisemakers, most students wore their blue Barringer Road t-shirts, and everyone gathered outside to cheer the riders as they rode in.

photo of people seated in front of fence

Art teacher Nancie Cooney organized a group of students to create tissue flowers, which they presented to the families of missing children who a bus in support of The Ride.

Riders walked along the sidewalk, talking to students about the ride and how to keep safe. Clicky, the Internet safety spokesrobot for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children NetSmartz Workshop delivered high-fives to excited students.

Once riders had a moment to rest and grab something to drink, Mr. Rich spoke to everyone. He thanked all who participated, both students and adults. He celebrated the fun, but reminded everyone of the importance of The Ride and the work it accomplishes. Each little action, he said, was critical toward the ultimate goal of keeping children safe. Barringer Road students then released helium balloons into the sky, each carrying a safety message for the finder.

Barringer Road will host The Ride again in 2018 and 2019.