Raising $2 million for Alyn Hospital, the country's only rehabilitation center for infants, children and young adults, is the aim of 325 bicycle riders aged 15 to 72 who will begin the five-day, 350-kilometer Wheels of Love bike ride from Katzrin in the Golan to Jerusalem next Sunday.
More than half of the participants are arriving from abroad - the US, Canada, England, Germany, France, Sweden, Brazil and Australia - while most of the Israeli participants are immigrants from English-speaking countries.
Each rider has committed himself to raising a minimum of $2,000 for Alyn, which provides intensive therapy for disabilities stemming from congenital conditions, accidents, illness and terror attacks. Even members of the volunteer support team - also a mix of Israelis and visitors - must raise a minimum sponsorship.
Although each rider has a long way to go, the Alyn event has come a long way already: Initiated six years ago with only 10 riders, the charity bike ride has become Israel's largest annual multiday charity sports event.
Last year, 235 cyclists raised $1,250,000 in sponsorships to benefit Alyn. On November 9, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai will ride along with the cyclists as they reach Rabin Square before beginning the final leg of their journey to the capital.
Moshe Torem, a doctor from Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu who has ridden in Wheels of Love since 2001, was forced to sit out the ride last year when he broke his hip while training. This year, he's back on wheels. "The children of Alyn Hospital have been the driving force in my rehabilitation and recovery from my cycling injury," he says.
Dr. William Eisenberg, a podiatric surgeon from Great Neck, New York who was seriously wounded in New York's World Trade Center terror attack, is celebrating his recovery by participating in Wheels of Love for the first time.
The ride is a family affair for some participants. One of the oldest riders is Dr. Peter Shrock, a retired pediatric surgeon from Roslyn, New York, also participated in last year's ride. This year, he is bringing along his sons Darryl, a real-estate developer from Potomac, Maryland, and Kevin, an orthopedic surgeon from Plantation, Florida. Peter's wife, Pamela, is part of the Wheels of Love volunteer support team.
For detailed information on the riders and routes check the hospital's Web site at www.alyn.org.