Koleszar rides against gun violence

Nick Koleszar in front of Edmond Town Hall in Newtown, Conn., at the start of the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington on May 5. — Contributed photo
Nick Koleszar in front of Edmond Town Hall in Newtown, Conn., at the start of the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington on May 5. — Contributed photo

Wilton High School senior Nick Koleszar completed a three-day, 400-mile ride from Newtown, Conn., to Washington, D.C., called the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington on May 8.

Nick said he decided to participate in the ride because, when it comes to gun violence, “enough is enough.”

“Nothing can bring the victims back to us, but at the very least, we can work to stop this terrible pattern of gun violence,” he said, adding that he also enjoys biking, so the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington was “a natural way” for him to support the cause.

Since he rides and races “all the time,” Nick said, he didn’t have to do much to prepare for the Sandy Hook Ride.

Nick has been racing road bikes competitively for two years for the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP) Junior Travel Team and started racing for a local team in 2016. This summer, he will compete in the Tour de L’Abitibi in Quebec, Canada, and in USA Cycling’s Junior Nationals.

The Sandy Hook Ride was Nick’s first time riding with Team 26, a cycling group led and formed by Sandy Hook resident and father Monte Frank in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

The team consists of 26 cyclists, representing the 26 students and educators killed in the school that day. Nick said he got involved with team earlier this year.

As part of the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington, Team 26 delivered a petition to the U.S. Capitol, signed by 250,000 citizens demanding a ban on assault weapons and other common sense measures to reduce gun violence.

Nick said the ride was “a lot of things.”

“It felt long, but not as long as you might think, because you have a lot of support from teammates and staff,” he said. “We passed through some beautiful places. Mentally, it was eye-opening.”

Nick said he and his teammates “heard from so many people who had been affected by gun violence” along the way. “Their stories were often difficult to listen to, but something I’m glad I heard — something we should all hear,” he said. “That was the lasting impact of the ride on me.”

Nick said the 400 miles the team rode was “nothing compared to the distance between victims of gun violence and the families they left behind.”

“At our stop in Baltimore, we met the mayor and police commissioner. They impromptu invited us to join them at a vigil to be held for a 17-year-old named Ray Antwone Glasgow III, who was killed recently,” said Nick.

“At one point, a large crowd standing on the school’s field released balloons, and as they drifted away many burst into tears, crying loud enough, I hope, to be heard in Washington.”

Nick said the best parts of the ride were riding into towns and cities and hearing from politicians, activists and concerned citizens “working to limit gun violence.”

Riding with police escorts was also a plus, said Nick.

“It was incredibly fun riding through normally congested roads at speed with police motorcycles and cars flying by, blocking intersections, clearing the way, and blaring their sirens,” he said.

Information: team26.org.