CLARENCE CENTER, N.Y. — It's been nearly one year since a California teen with family ties to Western New York went missing. On Friday, September 3, bicyclists in Buffalo will join others around the country for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's annual Miles for Hope event in honor of Sydney West.
"She was 19-years-old and incredibly intelligent and she was funny and athletic and incredibly caring," said Jay West of his daughter, Sydney.
But he said Sydney's transition to her freshman year at her dream school, UC Berkeley, was difficult during the height of the COVID pandemic.
"She was/is a wonderful human being, but she's also a human being that struggled with anxiety and depression and it got ahold of her," West said.
He spoke with his daughter on the phone the night before she disappeared.
"It was sad. She told me she loved me and I told her there were a mountain of people that loved her," recalled West.
The next morning, September 30, 2020, cameras on the Golden Gate Bridge captured Sydney there, but because of the fog, they lost sight of her.
"There were a lot of people on the bridge though," said Sydney's mother, Kimberly. "There were people walking, running, biking, driving, so the fact that all of our pleas to the public and with all of the information out there, no one has seen anything, is just so baffling to us."
But thousands of miles away here in Western New York, people want to help. Pastor Steve Biegner of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Eggertsville went to Amherst High School with Sydney's mom, and he's leading a 100 mile bike ride Friday in Sydney's honor. And Sydney's dad is coming here from the family's North Carolina home to ride along.
"When you're tired, you're not as tired as he is," said Biegner. "So it'll make the pedaling a little easier knowing that Sydney's dad is riding along with us."
The Center for Missing and Exploited Children hopes this ride will raise awareness not just about Sydney, but for so many others like her who have disappeared.
"We always say, hope is why we're here. We never give up hope searching for a child until we bring that child home," said Kathy Gust, program director for NCMEC.
For the last 26 years, dedicated cyclists throughout New York State have been participating in The Ride for Missing Children to help raise awareness for missing children across the country.
This year's Miles for Hope ride will take place at 7 a.m. on Friday, September 3, beginning and ending at the Clarence Center United Methodist Church. Concurrent rides will take place across the country including in San Francisco and in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Sydney grew up. Sydney's mother will join participants there.
Together riders will cycle 2,800 miles — the distance between Sydney's home in Chapel Hill and where she was last seen in San Francisco.
"If we can bring one kid home - granted I do want my child to come home - but if we can bring one kid home that's a win. And that's a win we can can all be proud of," said Sydney's father.
Anyone with information about Sydney's whereabouts is asked to contact private investigator Scott Dudek by texting or calling (925) 705-8328. Sydney has light brown hair and blue eyes. She is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. A $25,000 reward is being offered for anyone who has information that leads to Sydney's return.
To learn more about the Find Sydney West bike ride, click here.