Pair bikes 400 miles for Beverly Catholic school

Neil Corcoran and Jamie Silvestri (foreground) are pictured in the final stretch of their four-day bike trip to raise awareness and funds for St. Mary Star of the Sea School in Beverly. (Pilot photo/courtesy Julie Corcoran)

BEVERLY — After biking over 400 miles in four days with only one flat tire, two fathers of children at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Beverly rolled into the school’s parking lot to cheers from applauding students, parents and teachers. The ride was a fundraiser for the school that netted $3,000.

Neil Corcoran, president of the school’s board and an avid biker, has participated in shorter charity rides in the past. He said both he and Jamie Silvestri had a passion for biking as well as their children’s Catholic education. They decided to combine the two to raise awareness and money for the school.

“It just seemed like the perfect match,” said Corcoran, who has six children, four of whom go to St. Mary’s school.

Corcoran added that Catholic schools face many challenges and must raise money in order to keep tuition affordable and continue to provide quality education.

“If we we’re successful in raising awareness — which I’d say resoundingly we were — and certainly funding — which we absolutely were — then it was a huge success,” he said of the fundraiser. “We definitely reminded ourselves that it was about the kids and Catholic education, primarily.”

Silvestri agreed, saying, “There are times when you’re on the road, it’s pretty tiring. You’re wondering how you’re going to finish, but you remember it’s for a good cause and just keep pedaling.”

The journey started on July 12 at the school. The first day was a 117 mile trip to Moultonborough, N.H. on Lake Winnipesaukee. It started out flat and easy but the riders soon encountered lots of hills and several small mountains.

“It proved to be a lot more mountainous than we had anticipated, which made it more challenging but also more enjoyable and certainly more memorable,” said Corcoran.

On day 2 they were on to Augusta, Maine. It was the longest leg of the trip, at 136 miles, and began with a delay because of a thunderstorm. They started at 7:30 a.m. and rode through the pouring rain for over an hour. The riders ended up finishing much later than anticipated, at 8 p.m.

“We were racing the sun that day,” said Silvestri.

Day 3 of the journey brought them 67 very hot miles to Portland, Maine. The families of both riders greeted them at their hotel that evening.

“Our kids had a blast being part of it,” said Corcoran. “This was a little bit of an adventure for them as well. Certainly it created stories and memories for Jaime and I, and I think it did the same thing for us as a family.”

The trip back home the next day was 100 miles of good, flat road, they said. Several other fathers of children at the school joined the pair for about the last 45 miles.

Although Corcoran had done shorter charity rides in the past, he said this ride was more challenging. It was over twice as long. It also called for following a map through unfamiliar areas and sometimes asking for directions, he said.

Silvestri, who had never ridden more than 66 miles in a day before the fundraiser, said the cheering crowd greeting them at the end, including Silvestri’s three girls who attend St. Mary’s school, was the best part.

“It was great to see all the people there,” he said. “It made it very worthwhile.”

Both riders are already planning for next year, saying they hope to have more participants but still keep the course challenging.

“One thing that struck both Jamie and I that after having one year under our belt,” Corcoran said, “there’s a huge opportunity to somehow make this bigger and stronger in future years and incorporate more people, more kids, into it. I think people were genuinely excited about it.”

St. Mary’s school has a tradition of great education and outstanding Catholic values and, Corcoran said, he wants to raise money so that other parents will be able to send their children there.

“We feel we are blessed to have the opportunity to send our kids there,” he added. “Catholic school to us, really is an extension of what we do at home. It’s very refreshing and comforting to know that the same values that we teach our children here are being carried out in the classroom, in the school yard and in everything they do at St. Mary School.”

Father David Barnes, pastor at St. Mary Parish, said that Corcoran and Silvestri’s commitment to Catholic education is a witness to others.

“These guys gave up their vacation time to do this. It was a sacrifice, not only for themselves but for their spouses as well,” he said. “These guys love the Church, they love their school and they want their kids to do the same.”

[Editor’s note: For more information about the riders and their trip, visit their web site at www.smsride.com.]

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