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Rensselaer County family pedals across the state to promote foster care, adoption

The orange cargo bicycle, carrying its load of four little boys in a “bucket” with seatbelts got a fair amount of attention by itself.

There also was a tandem bike with another young boy on the second saddle.

All five youngsters were dressed identically in bright orange T-shirts and lime green shorts, and wore fanciful bicycle helmets.

Edgar and Vinny, who are 5; Nico and Emilio, who are 6, and 8-year-old Francesco, better known as “Franny,” are the newest members of the Capuano family of the Rensselaer County Village of Castleton. They were on a mission to bring attention to something else.

Once foster children, the boys were adopted last year by Renee and John Capuano, who also have two biological children: Paul, 16, and Priscilla, 14.

Tuesday afternoon, the whole family arrived in downtown Buffalo, completing a nine-day bicycle trip, from Troy to Buffalo, to inspire more families to adopt and foster children in need. May is Foster Care Month in New York.

Paul, who pedaled the cargo bike, came up with the idea.

“We were hoping to do something ... give back a little bit,” he said late Tuesday morning, during a break in Ellicott Creek Park in the Town of Tonawanda. A bicycle trip would provide the most opportunities to meet people, he reasoned.

“Wherever we stop, these guys usually get a lot of attention,” Paul said of his younger brothers.

The trip started May 18 outside Rensselaer County’s Department of Social Services offices in Troy, where the family received a royal send-off – complete with a police escort to the Erie Canalway Trail. Priscilla was behind the handlebars of the tandem bike, riding with Franny, and their parents took turns riding a third bike or driving a van carrying supplies.

All nine members of the family wore orange T-shirts promoting foster care and adoption. “If we can do it, so can you,” was printed on the back, along with a toll-free number for the state Office of Children and Family Services.

Following the Erie Canalway Trail, whose condition ranged from “treacherous” to “luxurious,” they typically traveled 38 to 40 miles a day, hitting the road between 6:30 and 8 a.m., and riding until 6 or 7 p.m. Nights were spent in motels close to the trail.

It wasn’t always an easy ride – particularly the “treacherous” stretch from Schenectady to Syracuse, Renee Capuano said.

“A lot of hills. We had to walk the bikes up a lot of hills.” And, in an area where the path wasn’t clearly marked, a wrong turn took them miles out of their way.

“We ended up in some swamps, deserted roads. We probably added 15 to 20 miles to the trip,” she said. A global positioning system got them back on the right path, which eventually covered more than 300 miles.

In Syracuse, the family was given a walking tour of the state fairgrounds, including snacks and treats.

“After Syracuse, everything has been beautiful,” Renee Capuano said. “The trails have been really well maintained. It almost feels luxurious.”

Along the way, there were some mishaps, technical issues with the bikes and bad weather. Plus frequent stops, which allowed the younger boys to burn off pent-up energy.

Nico was reluctant to climb back into the cargo “bucket” after Tuesday morning’s stop at Ellicott Creek Park. “We sit there and do nothing,” he lamented.

Nico and Vinny are biological siblings, as are Edgar, Emilio and Franny. “There’s always a push to keep siblings together,” Renee Capuano explained.

“We have been fostering for about six years. We had about 12 kids,” she said. “These are the first five that worked out to an adoption.”

“We didn’t set out to adopt five ... Once they’re in your house for a little while, they’re family,” Renee Capuano said.