Lori Riley: Cyclists Had A Cause, And The Wheels Started Turning

Bikes For Hartford

From left, Tim Scully of Unionville, Patrick Scully of Unionville, Nick Fitzner of Glastonbury, Chris Rago of West Hartford. Tim, Patrick and Chris will be biking 200 miles from Provincetown to Hartford on Sunday to raise money for Bikes for Hartford. Nick will be providing support on the trip. Another cyclist, Andy Meigs, will be biking, too. LORI RILEY / HARTFORD COURANT (Lori Riley / Hartford Courant / June 7, 2014)

WEST HARTFORD

— In March of 2012, Eastern Connecticut State University seniors Patrick Scully and Nick "Fitz" Fitzner decided to go to Washington, D.C., on spring break.

It was a little different from most spring breaks, however. Scully and Fitzner went to D.C., then biked back to Connecticut — 500 miles — to raise money for the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic.

The two Eastern Connecticut rugby players were influenced by their assistant coach, Ray Aramini, who biked from Canada to Willimantic in 1996 and from San Francisco to Willimantic in 2000 to raise money for the soup kitchen. Aramini, who is on the board of directors at the soup kitchen, has the rugby team involved in a number of community service projects in Willimantic.

So it wasn't surprising that Scully, now a paraprofessional at Central Elementary School in Simsbury, was thinking about doing another big thing for charity. Was Fitz in? Actually, Fitz wasn't in shape for a long bike. But he would go along and help. Tim Scully, Patrick's younger brother, said he would be up for it. So would a friend, Andy Meigs, who was new to cycling but had run a couple of marathons. Another friend, Chris Rago, was in, too.

And then there was the time factor. A 500-mile bike would take too much time. Everybody works. Patrick Scully has school Monday morning. How about a 200-mile bike ride? From Provincetown to Hartford? In one day?

That's how the Scully brothers, Meigs and Rago will be spending their Sunday. If you see them out on Route 14 in Scotland Sunday afternoon, give them a wave. They planned to start at 1 a.m., traveling mostly on the Cape Cod Rail Trail during the overnight hours, then hitting the roads in the morning, going through Providence and eastern Connecticut before ending up in Hartford around 6:30 p.m., if all goes well.

Their charity this time is Bikes for Kids, a Centerbrook-based nonprofit that provides bikes for children and people who can't afford them. They are calling themselves Bikes for Hartford, because they wanted to raise money specifically for bikes for Hartford-area children.

"We all grew up around bikes, and the fact that kids may not have that experience, that's something if we could change it, we'd love to do it," said Patrick Scully, 24, who lives in Unionville with his brother and rides his bike to work every day in good weather.

The Scullys grew up riding bikes in Farmington.

"My brother and I rode everywhere," said Tim, the youngest of the group, at 21. "On the trails, to the store. We started out mountain biking."

Rago, who lives in West Hartford, met Patrick when he was a student at UConn. A friend introduced them, and they've been talking about biking nonstop since.

"This was a collective idea," Rago said. "We were brainstorming over the winter: We want to do a big ride this spring. We decided we should do this for someone other than ourselves, to benefit someone.

"This is going to be my longest ride. I rode in the cycling club at UConn, but the rides and races we did were never over 100 miles. It's going to be a mental and physical test Sunday."

Rago and Tim did a 13½-hour, 160-mile training ride to Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts after Memorial Day.

"It was a long day," Rago said. "It was honestly more mental than physical. Once you get past a certain point, you can keep your legs turning but you need to keep a positive mind-set."

Then there was the day they started training in March.

"The first day we rode, it was like 4 in the afternoon, March 3, and it was 18 degrees," Tim said. "My feet were numb. Pretty much all of March, it just didn't warm up."

Last week, the group put up some signs around Farmington for bike donations. They collected over 100 bikes.

"We rented a big box truck," Patrick said. "We filled it up. People just showed up. We did it from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. We had the truck filled at 11:45. We told people we couldn't take any more. We left and came back to find a pile of bikes. There's like 20 bikes in my basement now."

And they have raised over $4,000 for their ride so far.

Aramini, their former coach, can't be prouder of his players.

"They're exactly everything I want in a rugby alum," he said. "They have taken what they have learned on and off the field and they have brought the concept of community service to their own homes."

For more information or to donate money or bikes, go to bikesforhartford.org or bikes-for-kids.net. Follow their progress Sunday on Twitter @bikes4Hartford.

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