SCHENECTADY — During the summertime, Devante Chandler, 13, uses his bicycle to ride around his neighborhood and through Central Park.

Chandler attended the second annual Blessing of the Bikes Sunday at St. Luke's Church. The event featured a bicycle safety course taught by the Schenectady Police Department, 25 bicycle helmets donated by Martin Harding and Mazzotti and, a moment of silence for people who've died in bicycle accidents, and the titular blessing of the bikes performed by the Rev. Dominic Isopo.

Father Isopo blessed the bikes, and bike helmets, using holy water and a prayer said in honor of Madonna Del Chisallo, the patron saint of bicycling.

"There's a prayer that talks about God protecting us on the road of life, and on the road we ride our bikes," Isopo said. 

Chandler, who said he's fallen off his bike a few times in the past, said he felt more protected now with the help of the blessing and the help of the plastic bike helmet.

Onnie Nappi, chairman of St. Luke's events committee, said about 65 people attended the bike blessing Sunday, up from 55 last year. 

Michele Hubert, a regular parishioner at St. Lukes, attended the bike blessing with her son Mason, who turns seven years old next month. Mason was entered into a raffle for five new bikes that were given away at the event. He won a black and red bike, with an adjustable seat, training wheels, and the word "Rocket" written across the front of the handle bars.

"He's the youngest of three, so he always gets hand-me-down everything," Michele Hubert said. "So, he's pretty excited. He put his hand on his heart."

Isopo said the bike blessing is one of several outreach programs St. Luke's has organized for the summer. 

"We're trying to reach people who wouldn't ordinarily come to church," Isopo said. "We have a blessing of the animals that we do around Oct. 4. That is really a fun thing, because people treat their animals like children. It's beautiful." 

Nappi and Isopo explained that neighborhood outreach events give them the chance to promote the church's summer lunch program, which provides free meals for children through age 18 Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. from June 26 to Aug. 30. 

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Peg Anderton, a church volunteer, said the summer lunch program averages about 35 children per day. She said the meals are paid for through a federal grant administered through the Schenectady Inner City Ministry. 

Anderton said another St. Luke's program is "Summer at SPAC", which features five trips to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, tickets to the shows, bus transportation from St. Luke's and dinner at SPAC.

"That's for kids and families who wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to go there," Anderton said. "That's through the Wright Family Foundation," a local non-profit philanthropy. 

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