Photos by Steven Lane/The Columbian About 100 supporters showed up Sunday afternoon at the Mountain View High School track to support Lori Salierno's 3,000-mile bicycle trek. Her organization's leadership classes are offered at Mountain View.
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Lori Salierno came home Sunday to start a 3,000-mile bicycle journey to support her organization that helps at-risk kids.
About 100 people showed up at the Mountain View High School track to cheer on Salierno as she started her trek to Acworth, Ga., less than an hour from Atlanta. She expects the ride to take seven weeks. She’s been seriously training only two months.
Salierno, 52, is the founder and chief executive officer of Celebrate Life International, a faith-based group that aims to transform at-risk students into responsible citizens through the Teach One to Lead One program.
Salierno’s father, the late Rev. Gerald Marvel, was pastor at First Church of God in Hazel Dell for almost 30 years. Members of that church and Summit View Church are major contributors to Celebrate Life.
“It’s time for our generation to step up and make a difference for our kids and kids around the world,” said Lorna Atkins, director of the Clark County chapter of the organization.
“I think there’s really challenges facing our kids today,” said Ott Gaither, a mentor at Mountain View High for Celebrate Life. “This is a proven program.” He also serves on the national board of directors of Celebrate Life.
There are about 80 students at Mountain View in the program, which holds meetings every Tuesday and Thursday with 14 adult mentors. Atkins said the program teaches 10 universal principles including integrity, respect, self-control, compassion and enthusiasm.
Savannah Montiel, a 16-year-old sophomore at Mountain View is one of those students.
Asked why she decided on the program, she said, “I wanted to give it a shot, and I wanted to change. I started to think about my life more.”
Mentor Laurie Gaither, at the event’s microphone, introduced Savannah to the supporters. She asked Savannah what she thought when first learning of the Teach One to Lead One program.
“Honestly, I thought it was stupid,” Savannah said. But after two weeks, Savannah said she thought the program could help her. She said she was self-centered and, “Now, I think about other people’s point of view.”
Laurie Gaither said Savannah visited her teachers and asked what she could do to make up missed work. She also plans on attending summer school.
Ott Gaither said that while the program is faith-based, religion is not taught.
“This is character education and leadership,” he said.
Celebrate Life’s Jose Maldonado said Clark County people donated $22,000 this week. Donors are asked to give $30 to pay for one child’s materials for the class. Also, supporters are asked to follow Salierno’s trip and make pledges.
Salierno said local money raised will pay for 700 Clark County students to get training in August. She said her bike ride will eventually provide money to help 10,000 kids.
Maldonado, the chief operating office of Celebrate Life, said 80 percent of donations go to the nonprofit’s work, with 20 percent supporting its administration.
Salierno, in biking gear, told the crowd that there are three types of people: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who ask what happened?
She said, “We think they (at-risk students in the classes) can and will make a difference.”
Then she proclaimed, “We are on our way to Atlanta, Ga.”
She hopes to raise $300,000 on her journey.
About 25 bike riders followed Salierno, most leaving her at the Interstate 205 Bridge. Her Sunday ride ended 45 miles later at Sandy, Ore.
The road ahead means she needs to average 70 to 100 miles a day.