By Anthony Caruso III
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/14/20
Charlie Dawes and Walter Clauss love lacrosse, biking and, even more, making a positive impact on other people’s lives.
So it was only natural that they decided to create “Ride for the A’s” (https://www.ridefortheas.org/) and decide to bike 1,700 miles to Key West, the furthest beach on the East Coast, in hopes of raising $15,000 for an annual Alzheimer’s fundraising project run by the Strath Haven boys’ lacrosse program.
Dawes and Clauss, who both finished their junior year last week, left Wednesday morning from Delaware County and are currently in Virginia on the fifth day of a month-long bike ride (approximately 70 miles per day) that had been planned out months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Ride for the A’s is an offshoot from “Play for the A’s,” (to donate click here) developed 7 years ago by Panthers coach Jef Hewlings. Entering this year, $90,000 had been raised for funds that bring support, comfort, and relief to the families and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. Already this year, Ride for the A’s has raised over $12,000 as part of over $17,000 raised by Play for the A’s.
“Walter and I have been on long bike rides together before. We saw this as a great opportunity to fundraise for Play for the A’s,” Dawes said. “Over the past few years of playing for Strath Haven lacrosse, we have seen the impact this organization has had first-hand.
“Coach (Jef Hewlings) usually reads us emails of how the organization has impacted others. It’s a meaningful cause to us.”
Each year since 2013, Strath Haven has hosted a high school tourney as part of Play for the A’s. Of course, this year the season was canceled due to the COVID shutdown and the players lost the opportunity to compete on the field for the cause (slated for April 18).
That has made the bike ride even more important.
“Lacrosse has been a source where I’ve met a lot of my friends, like Charlie,” Clauss said. “We’ve played soccer together, now we are playing lacrosse together. Besides playing lacrosse, it’s the friends that you make on the field. It’s the memories that you make on the field.
“It’s especially important each year when we play that one day tournament for the A’s. That day is such a big fundraiser for our cause, but sadly, this year, we were not able to have that six-game tournament.”
Clauss and Dawes have ridden together a lot, but Clauss said their longest trip until this one had been 140 miles.
“The longest one we’ve done before the Florida trip was 70 miles a day over a weekend earlier in Sept. 2019,” Clauss said. “That trip was a combined a 140 miles. It’s not super long compared to the trip to Florida. We went to the Poconos where his family has a campsite. We biked there, spent the night there, before coming back home.
“Before the virus started, we biked down to Maryland. We met frequently to plan the trip to Florida and where we’re going to stay.”
The bikers have been traveling about 70 miles per day and are staying either at homes of family or friends or campsites that have opened since COVID restrictions have eased.
“We’re biking to Fort Myers [Florida], then once we’re in Florida, we’re going to take a ferry to Key West,” Dawes said, noting they will return home by plane. “This is going to take approximately 30 days to get down there.
“That’s not exact, because there’s things that could happen like flat tires and other stuff that we may have to work our way around. We will have a few rest days, as well, during the trip. We’re using the East Coast Green Way – it’s a route that goes from Maine to Key West.
“We’re using that for the majority of our ride, then for a portion that we’re going to be on, it’s going to be approximately 1,700 miles. If we do reach our 70-miles a day limit, then it’ll allow for several rest days.”
Will you have a chance to sight see during the trip?
“The East Coast Green Way takes you through designated bike travels, but it takes you through a lot of the major cities and into some parks,” Dawes said. “We go through Raleigh, Richmond, Durham, Savannah, Ga., and Lakeland, Fla. We’ll probably stay a day or two in Key West, as well.”
Did they need to get new equipment to go on this long bike ride?
“Yes, we had to get new bikes,” Clauss said before the trip. “We’ll have to pay for our food and campsites. We also had to purchase bike shoes, the bags that go onto the bikes, a GPS, and a few minor items. We’re taking very limited supplies, just the clothes that we need, a tent and a cook set. The cook set fits over the back tire on the bike with straps.”
Strath Haven senior midfielder Alex Lombard also spoke about the team’s fundraising for Play for the A’s and a special project this spring in which team members helped dozens of local families locked down by COVID-19 by purchasing groceries and other items with money raised by the foundation.
“We’re using our fundraising, to purchase groceries and then will reimburse people, who need groceries, during this outbreak,” said Lombard. “Let’s say that somebody tells us that they need milk, bread, or some other groceries, we’ll go out and get it for them.”
“When we first started doing this, there were 10 families on the list. I think we got everyone on there and then in the second bunch, we got more families, who requested our help. I’d say we’d helped probably 20 families so far and will likely be helping more in the future.”
Unfortunately due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team has lost its season. How has this helped filled the void of losing the season?
“It’s still an opportunity to support my team even though we’re not on the field,” Lombard said. “Every time that I have gone shopping, I have put on my Strath Haven lacrosse shirt. It’s another way to represent my team, while also helping out the community. It has also helped me get out of the house and not be stuck inside all day.”
How did you cope with the lost season, especially when you are a senior?
“It’s devastating to say the least,” he said. “My previous three seasons led up to this season. My off-season, leading up to the season, was my most productive yet. Then, due to an infectious virus, to lose my season, it’s been tough.
“It hurts. I’ve been going to my school’s turf and practicing there when I could as if it was an off-season. I shoot around and throw the ball against the wall, even though I’m not playing on the field with my teammates and playing the game that I love.
How did coach Hewlings elp the players, like yourself, to get through this tough time together?
“The very first night that we heard that our school year was canceled, he texted all of us individually,” Lombard said “In the text, he explained how bad he felt and the pain that he was feeling for us. He was just as devastated as we are that we had our season lost due to this virus. He told us not to be upset over this and he let us know that he was understanding.”
Tags: Strath Haven