John Gonzales is the Cottage C Supervisor and team captain of Ride for Ryther. This is his second year riding in the Seattle to Portland Classic to raise funds and awareness for Ryther.
A couple of weekends ago I was going on a training ride for the upcoming Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, a one day 202 mile bike ride that I will be dedicating to benefit Ryther. I was heading out to Mercer Island for a training ride when on my way I unexpectedly hit a pothole and was thrown from my bike. At first I was rattled and confused. I gathered myself as quickly as I could and rode a short ways to safety. I took a couple of deep breaths and asked myself,
“Do I keep riding?”
The answer was easy, “of course!”
Why was the answer so easy? It was because I knew what I was riding for: Ryther, an organization that has served families and children for more than 125 years in the Pacific Northwest.
Ryther provides a variety of services that are all focused on providing children and families the opportunity for a healthier tomorrow. In the Sub-Acute Residential Treatment Program, where I work, children are provided with a highly therapeutic environment that is instrumental in helping them regain their lost childhood. In this environment, children are able to achieve therapeutic goals, reach developmental milestones, and gain valuable ground in their academics. Not only are most of the children afforded these opportunities, but, for some, Ryther represents their first safe home. These children show tremendous resiliency, which combined with the efforts of the Ryther staff, leads to remarkable growth.
It is the dedicated work the residential counselors do that provides these opportunities for children to heal and grow. The breadth and depth of their training and experience allows them to work with each child on an individual level, regardless of his or her trauma history. Their tireless efforts are seen in countless ways; whether it’s the first time children are able to comfortably express their feelings, go to bed without fear because they know they are safe, or maybe even learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. While the work that the children do is extraordinary, even more extraordinary are the staff alongside them guiding them every step of the way.
Placing Children First
Ryther has made every sacrifice possible to keep children first and to continue to serve the neediest children in the northwest. Every day I am reminded of the thousands of children we have been able to give a childhood. I am reminded of a young man, who in our care, discovered his own passion for bikes. He had lost everything including his family and was understandably angry. He would threaten staff, want to hurt himself, and often wanted to give up, but the Ryther community never gave up on him. The staff and the agency figured out ways to channel his passions and teach him to redirect his anger. A staff member donated a bike and tools. Pretty soon he was waking up early to ride laps, spending his allowance on the newest and coolest bike bell, and even volunteering to help repair other children’s bikes. By the time this boy left, he had his smile back. He was proud of the person he had become, and the staff was happy to say goodbye to him and count him as one of the many children who had regained their childhood.
This is why I keep riding. I have never been more inspired by a group of hard working individuals, children and staff. Dedicating this ride is what I can do to say thank you for all I have gained in my 8 years at Ryther.
Oh, and the training ride went well. After I collected myself I was able to move on and finish my ride feeling strong and prepared. Fortunately, I got away with my health and am able to keep riding for Ryther.
Click here to make your contribution to Ride for Ryther. If you know John, you can specify his name in the dedication section.