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65-year old friar cycles 425 miles for charity

August 15, 2012

Brother Shamus traveled by bicycle, his heavy backpack in tow, from Buffalo, NY, to Albany, NY, resting at camps he set up along the way to raise funds for the campus’ Dorothy Day Center, an outreach provider that gives food, clothing and monetary assistance to underprivileged families throughout four counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.

 Brother Shamus 2012 Charity Bike Ride

What drives a 65-year old friar to invest six consecutive days, in the grueling summer heat, to pedal 425 miles across an unknown route in upstate New York? Helping the least of his brothers and sisters is the answer he would give. Brother Shamus McGrenra, T.O.R., director of international admissions at Saint Francis University, created this challenge to raise funds for the campus’ Dorothy Day Center, an outreach provider that gives food, clothing and monetary assistance to underprivileged families throughout four counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.

From July 30 through August 4, Brother Shamus traveled by bicycle, his heavy backpack in tow, from Buffalo, NY, to Albany, NY, resting at camps he set up along the way. He enjoys cycling and held a similar charity ride for the Dorothy Day Center last year, traveling 375 miles from Pittsburgh, PA, to Washington, D.C.

That trip included some uncomfortable scenarios. According to Brother Shamus, “I woke up at 5 a.m. that Monday morning and began biking. Around 7:45, it started pouring rain.” The rain fell heavily on him all day. He was drenched and in the afternoon found shelter at a picnic area under a tin roof. He took his helmet off to try to nap, but the rain beat so loudly on the tin roof that he couldn’t sleep, even after the demanding 60 miles he rode that day. How did he cope with the unpleasant start to last year’s fundraising trip? “I just offered it up,” he said.

He offered it up and was also able to give. He raised an astounding $12,000 on that trip- $7,000 more than his initial goal. Dawnia Sanborn, assistant at the Dorothy Day Center, attested to how badly the center needed Brother Shamus’ donation. “The year before this fundraiser, we ran out of money to help people with their oil, gas, electric and water and sewer bills in early March. With his donation we were able to continuing helping families this year until the end of April. We provided assistance to more than 400 families throughout the past year,” remarked Sanborn.

She has worked at the center for nine years, and knows that more funds will be needed for the upcoming year. “We have an increasing need from local people who have lost jobs. The need is going to continue to grow due to cuts in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP). We want to be able to help families with these basic, but essential services.”

Because of the increasing need, Brother Shamus has elevated his goal for this year’s ride. Calling his second annual charity ride “Your Gift is Our Hope,” he is trying to collect $20,000 for the Dorothy Day Center. He doesn’t think the goal is too lofty. At the center he witnessed a woman who wept when she was shown the center’s pantry and was told she could take what she needed for herself and her two small children. “I don’t mind doing this because I know I will not have a problem today or tomorrow getting breakfast, lunch or dinner. The people I am raising money for don’t always know where their next meal is coming from,” he said.

For more information about the ride, e-mail Brother Shamus at smcgrenra@francis.edu. To make a gift, donations can be sent to: to Brother Shamus J. McGrenra, Saint Francis University, P.O. Box 600, Loretto, PA 15940 (checks made payable to Dorothy Day Center). Online donations can also be made (select Dorothy Day Center).