COAL TOWNSHIP - For the first time in its history, funds will be raised for Geisinger Children's Miracle Network (CMN) through an off-road trail ride.

Cally Kalie, CMN coordinator, said Thursday the 25-mile trail ride Sunday at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) is the first of its kind for the program. CMN has a long history of holding numerous fundraising events, including an annual 5K race and a "Motorcycle Miracle Tour," but not an off-road event.

The trail ride is open to all sorts of off-road enthusiasts, including people with all-terrain and utility vehicles, dirt bikes and recreational vehicles. Funds raised benefit children at Janet Weis Children's Hospital, Geisinger Wyoming Valley and more than 40 medical groups and outreach clinics.

The ride is sponsored by the Anthracite Trail Riders (ATR) and the AOAA. ATR is a local ATV club that formed last year in response to the AOAA park, which is being developed on 6,500 acres of Northumberland County-owned land in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships.

In April, the group conducted a cleanup in the Whaleback area of the land.

Kalie said plans for the trail ride have been in motion for three months since Geisinger Health Systems (GHS) organized an ATV youth safety program at the park.

"The pediatric trauma program wanted to do something for kids to have some safety out there," Kalie said. "We got in touch with AOAA and Northumberland County to hold a helmet and goggles program for youths."

That was last month, when GHS paid three Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) ATV instructors to show participants how to safely operate their off-road equipment. Helmets and goggles were provided to children at no cost.

"They (AOAA) helped us with the youth safety program," Kalie said. "Through that, they wanted to give back and helped us organize a benefit ride."

Spectators welcome

Kalie said the ride is not just for people who own off-road equipment. Spectators are more than welcome to attend the event at no cost, she said. At the trail head, people can enjoy food from the Friendship Fire Company in Shamokin and One Smart Cookie. There will be a raffle of ATV tires and several off-road vendors, including QuadBoss, will have stands.

Registration fees are $15 for operators and $10 for passengers. Registration will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Groups of riders will depart from the main trail in groups, with the last group departing no later than 1 p.m.

All participants are required to wear a securely fastened helmet with eye protection, proper clothing and foot attire during the trail ride. Safety restraints in a side-by-side must be securely fastened and young riders must be under the supervision of a parent or guardian. People under the age of 16 are not permitted to operate an ATV unless they have completed an ATV safety training course, and no one under the age of 12 can operate a machine.

Kalie said a signup sheet will be at the event for children interested in participating in future safety programs.

Kathy Jeremiah, planning department grants manager for Northumberland County, said she expects a large turnout and hopes local folks come out and show their support for CMN.

On the Net: http://www.geisinger.org/cmn/