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A group of bikers from 13 different countries ranging in age from 13 to 70 has succeeded in raising over $2 million for the Alyn Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation Hospital in the "Wheels of Love" Alyn International Charity Bike Ride.
A total of 610 bikers rode the final leg of their five-day journey up to the hospital last week. Each rider is responsible for raising $2,000, all of which supports Alyn Hospital. As of Wednesday, a total of $2,349,006 had been raised.
This year, bikers chose from four different path options, ranging from off-road challenge to touring, to bike from Tiberias to Jerusalem.
Alyn, a private non-profit hospital, is one of the world's leading specialists in the active and intensive rehabilitation of infants, children and adolescents - regardless of religion or ethnic origin - affiliated with a broad range of physical disabilities. Since the hospital is not government-sponsored, "a significant gap exists between what the hospital receives for patients and the actual cost of innovative psychological, speech, and movement therapy," said Brenda Hirsch, Alyn's director of public relations and resource development. All of the money raised by "Wheels of Love" goes directly to close that gap.
Each country's riders are given one patient's profile and riders sport the child's photo and biography on their bikes. At the closing ceremony, riders had the chance to meet their "motivator" in person. The 13 patients rode a bicycle at the ceremony in a show of camaraderie and support for the event.
"Wheels of Love" is Israel's largest multi-day, multi-route international charity sports event. The campaign is unique in that it offers "three amazing aspects," said rider David Contorer of Royal Oak, Michigan. "You train for months and get your body in shape, get the opportunity to see gorgeous views of the Galilee from a bike, and you are doing something wonderful for kids."
"Ask anyone," said Zvi Gilboa of Jerusalem, "this ride is worth every minute. The cause is sacred."
As incredible as so many participants found the ride, some saw room for improvement for next year's event. "It's a hospital for Arab and Jewish kids," said Robby Berman of Jerusalem. "Next year, I'm going to join, if not head a committee to recruit Arabs." Berman plans to reach out to the Arab families at the hospital and call on Israeli bike stores who may have Arab clientele to include them in the ride.
"Let's help both our kids at this hospital and spend five days riding together," Berman said.