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IOCC’s race to respond stops in Craig

David Pressgrove

For one team it was a homecoming for the others, they had a brief home away from home.

Monday afternoon the International Orthodox Christian Charities cycling team made a stop at the St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church in Craig on its way from New Jersey to California in a mere 25 days.

The riders stopped and took a break from their riding around 3:30 p.m. after cycling up Trail Ridge Road in the morning.

“We punished our bodies for 25 miles up the hill this morning,” said cyclist Alex Mazarakos.

“Then we hung out at the top, patted ourselves on the back and headed here.”

The local congregation fed the group of five cyclists, one bike technician, some family and three IOCC assistants and, during the meal, the group made a small presentation about its purpose.

For IOCC Development Officer Daniel Christopulos the stop in Craig was a special one because as late as 1991 he served as the congregation’s priest.

“I’m a little disappointed because I’ve been telling the riders for the past two days about the great lamb in Craig,” he told the small gathering in the basement of the church, “and there wasn’t any when they arrived.”

Marianna Raftopoulos explained to them that the original plan was to have some lamb but they were told that the cyclists would want something easier on the digestive system like grains and fruits.

The IOCC is celebrating its tenth year in existence as the non-profit humanitarian aid agency of Eastern Orthodox Christians. The “Race to Respond,” an idea of lead cyclist Jim Angelus, is raising money for the charities with the goal of raising $250,000.

Michael Tsakalos, a cyclist and IOCC official, said the group had raised a majority of the money before the trip from the corporate sponsors of the group and were hoping to raise the rest on the journey.

Christopulos explained to the members of the Craig congregation that the IOCC’s purpose is to provide aid to those suffering from famine, natural disasters and man-made disasters. The IOCC has sent aid to 21 countries as well as locally with training a group in Denver to help families who have lost houses in fires this summer.

“We help anyone who has demonstrated need,” Christopulos said.

“Regardless of faith or creed, we deal with the poorest of the poor who have no safety nets.

“This is called the ‘Race to Respond’ but it isn’t a race between the riders,” he said.

“It is a race for us to meet people’s needs.”

Most of the riders found out about the “race” on the Internet including Konstantin Kanelis who came to the ride from Germany.

“It is good to be directly involved in a way to help people,” he said. “I’ve learned that in order to be the highest you must take yourself to the lowest.”

Constantine “Dino” Davlantis learned about the ride from Mazarakos, his cousin.

“This is the first charity event that I’ve been involved with,” he said. “We found something we are good at and enjoy and we are using it to help others.”

Because of a vehicle breakdown in Loveland Saturday, the group was a little behind their grueling goal of 3,500 miles in 25 days. The average of 120 miles a day is blazing compared to the other charity rides that have come through Craig.

“The parishes we visit keep us going,” Mazarakos said. “As well as the Pacific Ocean.”


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