TICONDEROGA What started as a friendly wager between sisters has become a charity event.
Joelle Stonitsch, 18, will ride her bicycle from Ticonderoga to Watervliet today, covering 100 miles as she raises money for YES!Solutions, a grass-roots neighbor-to-neighbor service organization based in New York City.
Family members are calling it the Tour de Joelle.
She was complaining that she missed me, so I told her to get on her bike and cmon down, said Jessica Dillon, Joelles sister who lives in the Albany area.
Ill bet you $100 and the Worlds Best Aunt title that you know is really mine, Dillon taunted Stonitsch, playing off their 3-year old nephew Owens rollicking attachment to the two sisters.
Joelle, youngest of six Stonitsch siblings, worked out for over 1,500 mountain miles during the past 15 months.
She and Jessica developed sponsors for the 100-mile ride and will donate the proceeds to YES!Solutions. At 10-20-30 cents per mile, Tour de Joelle sponsors will help pay for back-to-school shoes and sneakers, socks, back packs, books, notebooks, binders, pens and pencils for 100 children in YES!-sponsored programs.
The children in the YES! Family are pre-teen and early teen boys and girls who have aptitudes that are thwarted by the circumstances in which they have been living, said Mary Lanning, president of YES!Solutions. Most of these kids are the first in their families to break the cycle of poverty and stagnation. Most come from gang-influenced public schools and neighborhoods. Most live with a single parent or grandparent who might be seriously ill, addicted or dying. Many live in abusive homes.
All of the hardworking students in one After School Program are children of incarcerated parents, she added. Typical grade averages of our children before intervention are in the 48-to-60 percent range. Last marking period, our children in the care of Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York, as an example, brought home a shining across-the-board grade average of 3.1
Riding to Watervliet with Stonitsch today is Chuck Reeder of Witherbee, a family friend and former church youth group leader. Hes an experienced cyclist and Stonitsch is counting on his expertise.
Chuck has been a big help, Joelle said. Itd be really hard without him.
The Tour de Joelle will wrap up with a drive-by past Dillons Watervliet apartment to Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park on the Hudson River in Menands at about 5 p.m. Owen Stonitsch, now almost 4, will be there to crown Aunt Joelle while Aunt Jess hands over the title of Worlds Best Aunt and a $100 check to her biker-sister.
Joelle, a student at North Country Community College, hopes to make the ride an annual event.
The Tour de Joelle is just the latest service project for the Stonitsch family. Family members have volunteered their efforts in Haiti, Mississippi, New York City and closer to home where Joelle is a member of the Ticonderoga Fire Department.