REENFIELD — Folks say she’s crazy.
And sometimes, Ann Cross believes it.
The Greenfield mom is planning to roller skate across Indiana — both east-west and north-south — in several different trips during the next few months to raise money and awareness for a local cause dear to her heart.
Cross’ two children have disabilities, and any money she raises during her trek will go to Families United for Support and Encouragement, a Greenfield-based organization that provides families of children with special needs with educational programs and resources.
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F.U.S.E. connected the Crosses with local resources when they needed them most, so when Cross decided to try long-distance skating, she decided to do it with a purpose.
“I get the funniest looks,” said Cross, 43. “I tell them, ‘I’m roller-skating the entire state of Indiana.’ They say, ‘You are crazy.’”
And Saturday, Cross was even second-guessing herself. Her first stretch was 38 miles, along U.S. 40 from Knightstown to Richmond. Battling wind and bumpy roads, the six hours was tiring, to say the least.
“When I went uphill I said, ‘I am nuts. I’ve completely lost my mind,’” she said.
But she made it. And she’s planning her next stretch May 30, from Knights-town to Family Fun and Fitness, just west of Greenfield.
That’s where Cross works, and where she’s finding a community of support. Cross’ husband, Steve, and her personal trainer, Mike Bellinger, bicycle alongside her, and Cross’ father drives behind the trio for safety, in a vehicle announcing the Skate the State campaign and how to support it.
This isn’t Cross’ first stint at long-distance roller skating, but it’s certainly her most ambitious.
Last year, Cross, an occasional figure skater since 2001, started roller-skating along the Pennsy Trail. In September, Cross skated 27 miles along U.S. 40 from Weston Elementary School to Washington Square Mall in Indianapolis, then back again. She raised $575 for F.U.S.E., and this time around, she wanted to try something bigger.
Her goal is now $5,000, with the hope that eventually, she might land corporate sponsor who would make per-mile pledges.
She’ll skate about 450 miles — 160 east to west along the Old National Road, and another 290 miles north to south, likely along U.S. 31. She’s raising awareness through Facebook, F.U.S.E. events and fliers, and GoFundMe, a crowdsourcing website.
So what do Cross’ children think of it?
“It’s not as cool as some of the stuff some other kids do, but it’s cool for me,” said Shiloh Smith, 16. “Skating is our thing.”
Shiloh is autistic, her brother Stratton, 12, has Tourette syndrome; both have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Back in 2013, the family stumbled on a F.U.S.E. expo at Greenfield-Central High School and discovered ways to get connected and manage the children’s conditions. They found some tactile toys that help the children concentrate in school; Stratton signed up for a soccer league; and Cross said the biggest benefit for her was realizing they’re not alone.
“I looked around me, and all these people have varying degrees of disabilities,” she said. “It’s OK.”
The family skates together for fun — Shiloh and Stratton are now fourth-generation roller skaters — and the kids enjoy videotaping their mom out on the road for social media. The children also will join their mom on skates for small stints in her statewide campaign.
Cross hopes to find enough weather-friendly weekends to complete her Skate the State campaign before the cool chill of fall hits.
Amy Borgmann, development director for F.U.S.E., couldn’t be more pleased.
“It’s just amazing, just awesome,” Borgmann said of Cross’ effort, adding that while most parents will volunteer to serve on the board, it’s unusual to see someone hold a fundraising campaign for F.U.S.E., let alone one of this magnitude.
Cross is dedicated to the cause, and she’s chosen a means that is certain to catch folks’ attention, Borgmann said.
“The crazier you can be, the better,” she said.
Still recovering from Saturday’s rough trip — the longest she’s ever skated — Cross said she’ll plan her next stretches based on how hilly or bumpy the terrain is. And while her kids tease her about one day roller skating across the country, Cross is focused on her Indiana goal for now.
“I bit off a lot this time,” she tells her kids, laughing. “Let’s not do across the nation yet.”
Cross has an open invitation for any roller skaters who want to join her for part of her journey; even people who would cheer her on from the sidelines would be an encouragement, she said.
And while she knows she’s got a little bit of crazy in her, Cross keeps a few wise words from her dad in mind: “What doesn’t kill you builds character.”
“You push, and you push, and you find out your body is able to do incredible things,” she said.
Greenfield mom Ann Cross hopes to roller skate across the state roughly 450 miles over the next few months to raise money and awareness for Families United for Support and Encouragement.
For videos and updates on her trip, or to contact Cross, visit facebook.com/RollerSkatetheState.
To donate, visit gofundme.com/rjbs5dw.
For more on F.U.S.E., visit fuseinc.org.