Winona Lake resident Barbara Wooler (second from left), with friend Judi Orme (right), Telford, Pa., talks to a group that showed up at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church Thursday. The group rode with the pair for a while before Wooler and Orme continued their bicycle ride from Anacortes, Wash., to Bellmore, N.J., to bring awareness and help raise money for Hand in Hand schools in Africa. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
Winona Lake resident Barbara Wooler (second from left), with friend Judi Orme (right), Telford, Pa., talks to a group that showed up at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church Thursday. The group rode with the pair for a while before Wooler and Orme continued their bicycle ride from Anacortes, Wash., to Bellmore, N.J., to bring awareness and help raise money for Hand in Hand schools in Africa. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
WINONA LAKE – Winona Lake resident Barbara Wooler and friend Judi Orme, Telford, Pa., are officially on their way to Lima, Ohio, after stopping in Winona Lake Tuesday and Wednesday during their bicycle ride from Anacortes, Wash., to Bellmore, N.J.

Approximately a dozen people rode with the pair for a little bit to see them off as they left Winona Lake shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Before starting off, Wooler talked to the group about how the bike ride got started and the reason behind the ride.

She said they haven’t done the math, but she believes the pair is about three quarters of the way done with the ride. “Our hardest rides are definitely behind us. We’ve got a couple hundred mile rides, but the rest are 70, 80, something like that,” Wooler said.

When they get to Columbus, Ohio, Wooler said they will take a day off for a meeting.

The purpose of the ride is to awareness of the plight of orphan kids in the Central African Republic. Hand in Hand Schools is giving thousands of orphans hope and a future, as well as support for the schools for the 2020-21 academic year, Wooler said in a previous interview. There are about 40 schools in Central African Republic. The schools help orphans in their village by offering a three-year school program where students “learn the three Rs.”

Wooler said her ride is bringing awareness to the schools as she doesn’t think people know the scope of what the schools did and “it’s exceeding our expectations for awareness.”

During their stop in Winona Lake, Wooler and Orme held a Hand in Hand party at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church.

“It was fantastic,” Wooler said.

Miriam Pacheco, Winona Lake’s Hand in Hand party organizer, said about 91 people attended the party.

Wooler said about half of the time was spent talking about the Hand in Hand schools and the other half was about the ride “and Judi explained the equipment we used and stuff.” Most of it was just questions from audience members.

Wooler said the reaction to the ride “has been overwhelming. We’ve had so many people following us every day on Facebook and Instagram. It’s been amazing just to get 91 people (at Grace Brethren Church Tuesday). I would never have imagined it.”

Pacheco said they didn’t know how many people to plan for during the party, so they decided to plan for 75 people.

Grace Brethren partners with Hand in Hand schools and it’s Wooler’s home church, said Pacheco.

Wooler and Orme will be holding three live parties and at least two Zoom parties during the rest of their trip to New Jersey.

During the ride, Wooler also hopes to raise money for the schools.

It takes $4,000 to fund a Hand in Hand school a year. Of the $160,000 total it would take to fund all 40 schools, Wooler said approximately 25 to 30% of the budget has already been raised. She said she thinks a lot of it came from new donors, but she hopes the regular donors keep giving. The regular donors usually give more in the fall.