Meet Our 2019 Bike for Books Team!

Third time’s a charm! Literacy Partners is excited to return as a charity partner for the 2019 TD 5 Boro Bike Tour.

On May 5, Team Literacy Partners takes the streets of New York City to bike for books. Together, our team will bike 40 miles across all five boroughs in support of our students. Collectively, our riders have raised over $7,000 to provide free literacy and language classes to parents, as well as provide home libraries of books for our students’ families.

This year, we have new members to Team Literacy Partners, while others have returned to bike for books and support hundreds of New York families. Learn more about these amazing individuals and why they chose to support literacy by biking for books!

Barbara Kancelbaum

This is Barbara’s third time biking for books! “There’s only one thing better than sailing through the streets of New York City without traffic, and that is doing it for Literacy Partners! It’s a fantastic organization that’s putting books (and literacy education) directly into the hands people who need them the most,” Barbara says. Barbara was also a huge reader as a child and loved books by Ezra Jack Keats, Beverly Cleary, and Judy Blume.

As a three-time charity rider, Barbara says, “I love riding through Central Park, where all the trees are blooming, over the Queensboro Bridge, and on the BQE. The latter can be a tough part of the ride, but it’s so cool to be there without the cars.” To prepare, she is riding through Prospect Park and the city.

When she isn’t reading, Barbara loves to run, garden, and practice yoga at the Park Slope Armory Y. She works at Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side.

Damaris Lasa

Damaris is a Google Analytics Certified Consultant and Trainer. I attribute all of the success I have had in my life to two primary skills: reading and writing. My parents were my first educational influences and they taught me to value education and to appreciate every opportunity I had to learn. I firmly believe every child deserves a great first teacher,” Damaris says. Her first book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin, introduced her to the joy of reading.

That’s why she decided to bike for books and participate in her first charity bike ride. Although she has participated in many races, Damaris is excited to ride with others who support literacy and experience riding over NYC bridges. To prepare, she is riding around the city every other week.

Damaris also loves to hike and go to the beach. She teaches digital marketing and analytics classes at General Assembly.

Lionel Ouellette

Lionel is no stranger to the TD 5 Boro Bike Tour – it’s his second time biking for books! As the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Literacy Partners, Lionel is constantly seeking ways “to support adult learners in furthering their education goals and needs so that they can lead more empowered, healthier, and happier lives for themselves and their children.”

Lionel currently leads the Liz Smith Adult Literacy Program for adults with little to no reading skills, and leads workshops in elementary schools in Staten Island teaching parents how to read with their children.

“I love all things reading and biking,” Lionel says. His early reading memories are of Golden Books and the Archie comics.

Lionel chose to bike for books as a way to:

  • Raise funds for the programs he loves and is involved with
  • Ride his bike on the Gowanus Expressway – selfie moment of the year!
  • Bond with the volunteer tutors of the Liz Smith Adult Literacy Program (like David!)

His favorite moment of the bike ride is “making that turn after you enter the Bronx and hearing the congos. Same congos since my first ride in 1998. Lights me up.”

Mirtha Pena

Born and raised in the Bronx, Mirtha had several favorite books growing up. She loved Frog and Toad are Friends, Corduroy, Charlotte’s Web, and El porque de la naturaleza (a nature book her mom bought from an infomercial!) As an adult, she fell in love with Kate Chopin, Ralph Ellison, Sandra Cisneros, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ashley Hay, Reyna Grande, Armando Lucas Correa, Edwidge Danticat, and so many others! She is currently enjoying reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming.

“Books have played an important part in my life and development,” Mirtha says. “I admire what Literacy Partners stands for and the kind of programs it brings to communities. Everyone should have access to the world of opportunities books and literature can offer!”

Mirtha is never too far from books – she’s a book publicist at Simon and Schuster! She also helps out with the family business, a vegan meal prep company that services the tri-state area.

As a first-time charity rider, Mirtha is excited to cross the Verrazano Bridge, sans toll! She is practicing with cycling classes and bike rides in Riverside Park. She also enjoys weightlifting, DIY projects, and exploring the city.

David Roycroft

As a volunteer of the Liz Smith Adult Literacy Program at Literacy Partners, David recognizes the importance of reading. “I think it’s important for citizens to read to keep themselves informed. Literacy Partners allows me, as a retiree, to continue to be a contributing member of society,” David says.

Previously an assistant manager of the Broadway branch of Queens Public Library, David started History and Headlines, a nonfiction book club in 2015. He retired in 2017. David is also a volunteer tutor at Reading Partners, and a volunteer with Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit that advocates for safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists

An enthusiastic cyclist, David is excited to bike over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. To prepare, he recently did a 50-mile ride to Nyack, New York, and is planning on doing the Tour de Staten Island and a 50-mile ride from Turner Falls to Northampton, Massachusetts. David’s last charity ride was a five-day 500 mile AIDS ride from Minneapolis to Chicago.

In his spare time, David likes to read in English and German, study Spanish, swim, and cook for his friends.

Orion Talley

“I love any excuse to ride my bike and I love books,” Orion says. He is excited to Bike for Books in his first charity ride! An avid reader, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques was Orion’s favorite as a child. He is excited to see all of New York City in one day and ride across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. He is preparing for the tour by riding his bike to work.

Orion is a real estate agent and ordained minister. In addition to riding his bike, Orion loves cooking, woodcarving, tending to his vegetable garden, and traveling. Orion lives an active lifestyle and loves snowboarding, tennis, martial arts, hiking, and camping. He lives in Bushwick with his wife, Sarah.