With the luck of the Irish on their side and months of hard training behind them, area residents completed the Irish Pub Tour de Shore, a 65-mile charity bike ride on July 28.
The Irish Pub Tour de Shore raises money for children in need and for the families of fallen police officers. It was founded by the owners of The Irish Pub, Cathy Burke and Mark O'Connor who wanted to use the pub's two locations in a manner that would give back to the community.
The ride began at The Irish Pub's location in Philadelphia and ended at a pub's original location on the Atlantic City boardwalk.
Mike Dugan, a member of the Pennsylvania State Police has completed the ride twice before this year and for his third time participating, assembled his own team of 21 locals, "The Jim Thorpers."
Fifteen members of "The Jim Thorpers" were able to ride on the day of the event, including Tyler Balliet, Monroe Berger, Lisa Chapman, Bill Chapman, Janie Connor, Ammon Hontz, Tony Kingsley, Ken Kingsley, Lori LaRizzio, Ted LaRizzio, Sean McFadden, Mary Seelig, Todd Truskey and Kim Kraus.
Collectively, the team raised $3,746. It costs $200 to participate in Tour de Shore, $25 for registration and $175 as a donation
The area's own Irish Pub, Molly Maguires in Jim Thorpe, made a large donation to the team to help pay for the custom jerseys "The Jim Thorper's" wore on the day of the race.
The jerseys were designed by Doug Rontz from Doug Rontz Signs in Jim Thorpe and featured a multitude of local references.
Dugan said he told Rontz they wanted to incorporate the Olympian, Jim Thorpe and Molly Maguire's clover. On the front of the jersey, a picture of Jim Thorpe in his football uniform was placed on top an image of the area's mountain scenery. The town name is in large, green print above his image and on the back of the jersey is Molly Maguire's three leaf clover.
Also included on a side panel of the jersey was a tribute to fallen Trooper Joshua Miller, a Pennsylvania state police officer with the Swiftwater Barracks who was shot and killed on June 7, 2009. Miller was killed in Monroe County while attempting to apprehend a kidnapping suspect.
Dugan said the team was assembled by word of mouth and there were even some members whom he had not met before their joining his team. The majority of "The Jim Thorpers" had not participated in The Irish Pub Tour de Shore before, except Seelig, Dugan, Hontz and Truskey who were involved with the event in 2012.
One first time participant was Lori LaRizzio. LaRizzio completed the ride along with her husband, Ted. LaRizzio said they originally signed up to do The Irish Pub Tour de Shore as a fitness goal.
"My husband and I really wanted to do something to improve our fitness but we also wanted to give back. We wanted to find something that had a good cause," said LaRizzio. "Our friends talked us into (Tour de Shore) back in the holidays and we didn't think we could do it. Yet, it was something that gave us a goal to work toward."
For most, 65 miles is more than the average bike ride and Dugan said it took the majority of the team members four or more hours to arrive at the finish line.
There were four rest stops placed throughout the race, where "the volunteers were just so encouraging that it made you want to finish," said LaRizzo.
To train for the ride, the LaRizzio's joined a gym in January and when the weather improved in March and April, they began riding the bike trails in Carbon County on the weekends.
LaRizzio described The Irish Pub Tour de Shore as, "… the most phenomenal experience I've ever gone through in my life. It was just so moving. Just the fanfare at the end – everyone was cheering us on and you just wanted to cry at the end because you couldn't believe you did it."
Next year, Dugan said he hopes to have a team of 30 people complete the race. LaRizzio said she has already had friends approach her, expressing their desire to participate next year.
"I think that because we are just such normal, regular people that people are thinking, 'Wow if they can train and do it, then I can do it, too."