Gary Horton with bike

Justin Cooper | Daily News

Ludington resident Gary Horton poses with the bike he’ll ride to the Mackinac Bridge and back to raise money for Staircase Youth Services. He is pictured on his 54th birthday, Tuesday, May 4.

He’s hardly touched a bike since the days he and his friends spent mountain biking over a decade ago, but Ludington resident Gary Horton, 54, is about to pedal 434 miles to the Mackinac Bridge and back.

Starting from Ludington on Sunday, May 16, Horton and a friend, Daniel Holmes, plan to make stops in Beulah, Elk Rapids and Petoskey.

They’ll reverse course at the Mackinac Bridge, making it back to town on Friday, May 21.

Along the way they’ll be trailed by a pickup truck bearing the emblems of businesses that donated to Horton’s cause: raising money for Staircase Youth Services, a Ludington-based non-profit offering youth and family intervention and counseling.

So far, he’s raised about $700, Horton said, as well as $325 on a GoFundMe page called “Charity Cycling Event to Benefit At-Risk Families.”

He hopes to raise $2,000 by the time he finishes his trek.

Horton said what he saw during the 25 years he worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections, as well as what he described as a “troubled teen life,” kept Staircase’s mission close to his heart.

“I’ve seen the bad part of what happens when teens don’t get a fair shake or have troubled families and just need a little bit of help to get going in life,” he said.

Staircase Youth Services Executive Director Cynthia Arneson said the funds Horton raises will likely be used to stabilize homes with children, paying for things like furniture and utility bills.

“(Horton) is a real strong supporter of Staircase,” Arneson said. “He has been a strong advocate for us and has been just a great guy in supporting our agency.”

Since Horton and Holmes came up with the idea in the winter, they’ve been preparing themselves for the biggest bike trip of their lives.

“In the winter, we were hitting the gym, and when it’s been dry out and nice, hitting the road,” Horton said.

When it comes to his safety, Horton’s chief concern is keeping out of the way of traffic, as they’ll be spending the bulk of their time cycling up U.S. 31.

“(I’m worried about) people on their phones being distracted, maybe watching us, or doing their own thing and not watching us,” he said. “We got the lights on the bikes and bright colors, but I think that’s our biggest worry.”

Though it’s just the two of them now, Horton said anyone who wants to join them in their journey is welcome to bike along with them.

Donations can be made directly to Staircase Youth Services or to Horton’s GoFundMe page at the following URL: https://www.gofundme.com/f/charity-cycling-event-to-benefit-atrisk-families

Daily News Staff Writer

Justin Cooper can be reached at justin@ludingtondailynews.com.

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