HARVEYS LAKE — Dozens of cyclists gathered at Lake-Noxen Elementary early Saturday, preparing to pay tribute to a man who was focused on his community while raising money for causes he promoted.
Attorney Gary Michak ran a successful Back Mountain law firm, was a longtime lover and teacher of the martial arts, and remained heavily invested in the betterment of the Wyoming Valley.
He even ran to replace James Tupper as district judge, hoping to build a better and stronger community.
Michak passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack last September at age 57. After months of planning, the Gary A. Michak Lakefest Ride was born, honoring not only the celebration of Harveys Lake, but Michak’s birthday as well.
Posing for a quick photo, Michak’s wife, Courtney Burgess-Michak, secured her helmet before taking off on a tandem bike along with her friend and Gary’s paralegal, Lauran Hall. Adding that the bike would later be raffled off, Burgess-Michak explained the idea behind her and Hall riding together.
“We just thought it would be a good tribute for Gary for the both of us to be together, and having a little fun on his birthday,” she said.
The ride was broken up into two sections: a 33-mile trek through the Back Mountain, and a shorter, 8-mile cruise around the the lake. To keep in line with his love of community, proceeds from the ride will benefit children’s programs at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA.
“We entertained a lot of ideas, but we wanted to do something that spoke to Gary’s life,” she said of the decision to help the YMCA. “His campaign was about safer and stronger, and the YMCA is about safer and stronger families. So we chose the Y and we knew a lot of the money would go where we would want it to go.”
Back Mountain resident Sean Robbins decided to attend the event as an act of gratitude for all the good Michak did throughout his life.
“Gary Michak was a pillar in our community,” Robbins said, noting some words to describe Michak would include hard-working, dedicated and generous. “It was a tragic loss, and I just wanted to come out and support him and his family and basically all that he stood for.”
Overall, the group hoped to raise about $20,000 for the Wilkes-Barre YMCA. And many believed they were close to hitting that goal, including YMCA CEO Jim Thomas.
Partaking in the ride himself, Thomas explained that proceeds would aid the organization’s day care and nursery centers, along with other children’s programs through an annual scholarship fund that would be set up in Michak’s memory.
As the buzzer sounded and the bikers began their journey, Cyril Corgan snapped a photo. Corgan was a childhood friend of Michak’s, and the two remained close over the years. He said that between practicing law and martial arts, Michak taught children discipline and helped them build self-esteem.
“He was always big into that part of giving back to the community,” he said. “I think he’d be very proud (of the event) — and we all are.”
To learn more or to donate, visit RideForGary.org.